Ellensburg, Wash. (Jan. 11) –
At one point, Kaelie Flores
and Taylor Shaw
wanted nothing more than to beat the other on the basketball court. Now, the duo is working together to get the best of others.
Flores and Shaw have known each long before they arrived on the campus of Central Washington University. Flores hails from Keizer, Oregon, while Shaw has called Oregon City, Oregon home. They met on a basketball court in the fifth grade, Flores as a part of Keizer Youth Basketball. Shaw played for Oregon City Girls Junior Basketball Association. They played each other so often, Shaw admitted to scoring a basket on the wrong hoop after halftime against Flores.
"Keizer was our biggest competition," Shaw explained. "We always played against them in the championships of tournaments."
Growing up, the two guarded each other. This may come as a surprise, as Shaw has become one of the best three-point shooters in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. This season, Shaw is knocking down 40.8 percent for her three-point attempts. A mark that places her just outside the top 10 in conference. In their youth, Flores was anxious to guard Shaw.
"I always wanted to guard Taylor," Flores stated. "I felt I could handle it. If Taylor was playing well, I wanted to stop her."
"It was tough to score on Kaelie," Shaw said. "She's really physical and has long arms. Posting up on her was tough."
As time wore on, the two continued to see each other on the basketball court. Flores attended McNary High School, while Shaw was at Oregon City. The two followed each other on social media, increasing the off-court impressions of one another.
"Intimidated," Flores felt towards Shaw. "I'd never go out of my way to make a friendship even though I wanted to. I thought she was popular and cool, too cool for me."
In the summer before her senior season, Flores committed to Central Washington University. In the fall, Shaw decided that Central was the place she'd call home. Shaw reached out to Flores through a mutual friend. After some conversation, Shaw pitched the idea of the two being roommates at CWU. Flores did not hesitate to say yes.
"I would not have survived my freshman year without Kaelie," Shaw said. "She was a built-in support system. Getting used to a new environment is really tough. It was nice to be able to live with someone who related to the same things that I was going through."
Before they arrived on campus, both had one last season with their high schools. Legend has it, Oregon City would routinely get the better of McNary. This was true until the pair's senior season. Oregon City entered the 6A State Basketball tournament as a heavy favorite.
A shakeup in the power rankings pitted Oregon City against a top seed in an early round. They were upset, forcing them to the other side of the bracket. A place where McNary was waiting for them. For the final time, Flores and Shaw would go at each other on a high school court.
"I remember feeling like we needed to win this game," Flores said. "It was my senior year. It was the one that mattered. We knew we needed to get it done."
Flores and her teammates did, besting Oregon City. Shaw didn't stick around to see Flores after the contest. Once it all blew over and the emotions of the day had passed, the duo resumed their friendship.
"Taylor is not intimidating," Flores stated. "She's super welcoming. Playing with each other was so different than playing against each other."
Now in their junior season, Flores and Shaw are starters for the Wildcats. Through 11 games, they rank second and third on the team in points per game. Flores has scored 12.4 points per game, while Shaw has added 11.1.
"Taylor and Kaelie are two extremely competitive players who've both done a really good job raising the level of those around them while also knowing times when to be light hearted and bring some laughter and fun into the situation," CWU head coach Randi Richardson-Thornley
Flores, Shaw and the rest of the Central Washington University women's basketball team are in Nicholson Pavilion tomorrow night as they host Seattle Pacific. Tip-off is at 5:15 p.m. The first 200 fans in attendance receive a voucher for a free t-shirt for the men's game against Western Washington University that follows at 7:30 p.m.