MICHIGAN CITY — People have trouble distinguishing twin sisters Emma and Sophia Nolan, and their dad, Ken, never saw why.
"He's never thought we looked alike from day one," Emma said. "He didn't think we were twins."
To the Marquette Catholic juniors, the differences are discernible.
"I had a lopsided head when I was a baby. I was ugly," Sophia said. "Her ears stick out and she has a long, oval face. I have a more round face."
Growing up, the girls didn't dress the same — Emma always wore blue and Sophia pink — nor did they pull the hijinks that some twins do. Even so, they're met with the usual confusion, walking the halls at school.
"Sometimes they either just don't know or they're just like, 'Emma?' and I'll have to be like, 'No, I'm Sophia,'" Sophia said. "Some people try. They just mix us up so much. We have one class that's not together and we asked that teacher if he'd noticed if we switched classes and he said he'd have no idea."
Neither seems to mind.
"It's obviously hard for some people if they don't really know us," Emma said. "I don't even tell them sometimes that I'm not Sophia because I don't want to make them feel bad."
One person who didn't mess up names was coach Katie Collignon, taking only one day of practice for her to figure them out.
"They always said I never got them wrong," Collignon said. "I told them I kind of outsmarted them on that one because if I wasn't sure, I didn't say a name and never just guessed. I found it pretty easy and I can tell now from 100 feet from behind which one is which by just the way they walk and carry themselves.
"Sophia has a very calm composure about her and there's not really a time I need to rein her emotions. Emma is our energy kid. She's gonna get us going every day at practice, and she's that kid walking in at 6 a.m. already singing."
The more outgoing of the two, Emma remembered in kindergarten being the one socializing and then introducing the shyer Sophia to the group. While some twins have an inherent rivalry, that doesn't exist here.
"I personally love being a twin," Emma said. "You always have someone there with a twin. On the court, we've always had a sense of where each other are. Sophia is always there in the rest of my life, so having her on the basketball court makes it a lot more comfortable, too."
Sophia, in turn, feeds off Emma's energy.
"We get each other," Sophia said. "Like when I pass to her, we always have that high-low game and I love doing that with her. We share a bedroom, friends, everything. We do everything together, she's definitely my best friend."
Behind Emma (20.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.0 spg, 1.7 bpg) and Sophia (18.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.6 spg and 1.0 bpg), the Blazers won their first state championship. Adding to their list of accomplishments, the St. Louis commits were named the 2018 Times Basketball Players of the Year.
"They make me look really good a lot of the time," Collignon said. "They play with so much emotion and are so skilled, I don't want to stand in their way. Gosh, it's a huge blessing to have both of them every night. They're both so enjoyable to be around and when they play basketball really well, that's like the sixth thing I like best about them. They're exactly what you'd want as the face of our program or school.
"They make good decisions on and off the court, they work hard in the classroom and they're very mature. When you do everything right, you want those kids to be recognized."
The Nolans came in with differing skill sets at the start of the season, but Collignon believed they were more comparable than ever by the end.
"I think their ceiling is so high on what they can do because they just absorb so much every day and really do want to learn the game," she said. "That was the most exciting part for me as a coach because you can get a kid that doesn't think they need to listen but they weren't like that, they're hungry to learn and get better. When your best players want that, that's huge and that's what surprised me most about them."
Emma finished with a school-record 594 points and was named to the IBCA Underclass "Supreme 15" and is a North Junior All-Star. She is already the program's leader in field goals, rebounds, steals and blocks, with Sophia right behind her in each category.
Having already committed, the Nolan's won't play AAU this summer. Instead, they'll work with a trainer and get some run in at the YMCA.
"We're both trying to get stronger," Emma said. "I'm trying to get my guard skills up because that's what I'm missing right now to be an all-around player."
Sophia averaged 18 points and seven rebounds for the second straight year. Scoring 20-plus in 11 games and 30-plus in four, she is the girls' program leader with 1,452 points and is 110 away from the all-time record held by Ryan Fazekas. She was also named to the North team and the Small-School All-State team.
"I definitely want to work on my post moves," Sophia said. "Coach has been trying to help us read the defense and then make a decision from there whether we need to go to a secondary move. I'll work on ball-handling too because I feel like I need to be able to take a girl on-and-one."
Having always played up a level or two when they were younger, the pressure when they arrived to Marquette was easy to handle. Also met with scrutiny from the outside on their state run, they'll look to give people more to talk about with a goal of repeating as state champs in 2019.
"I don't really care what others had to say, I know I made the right decision coming here," Sophia said. "Our sister Hannah would come home upset at (her other school) and when she got to Marquette, everything turned around. That definitely influenced us."
Emma calls it 'the best decision she ever made.'
"I'm 110 percent glad we came here," she said. "Sophia and I don't like big, public places and it's like family here. What we're doing here doesn't affect anybody else and I don't know why they're wasting their time worrying about us. We're just gonna do us."