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A good basketball player can sometimes give off the vibe of being two places at once. The Dean twins give off this vibe a little more effectively than most.

Emily and Madison Dean, seniors at El Molino High School, are the engines that make the Lions girls’ basketball team go. Team captains, stat leaders and emotional drivers of the team, the duo have long been leaders in both word and deed.

“If you are going to compare both heart and passion, they are equal,” said Keith Nordby, the Lions’ head basketball coach.

They gave the same effort to the Lions’ soccer team that went to the semifinal in the North Coast Section Division III tournament last fall.

Longtime soccer teammate and friend Anamaria Morales has seen what the sisters’ bond can bring to a team.

“They are both wing midfielders, so it’s very important that they work simultaneously and together,” she said. “They work very well together. It’s kind of like they can read each others’ minds. I kid you not, they say the same things. It brings the midfield together for us; they can go up and down the wings and cross back and forth for us and it works.”

That makes sense to the Deans’ mom, Monica.

“They know what they’re thinking without it even being spoken,” she said. “When they were little, they certainly had their own language.”

The sisters call it “twin telepathy.”

In sports, whether it’s soccer, basketball, softball or martial arts, that bond shows up in practices and games.

Lions’ soccer coach Tomas Morales, Anamaria’s dad, saw it, too.

“I’d put one on the left wing and one on the right wing and they would control the midfield,” he said.

“They are natural athletes,” he said. “Soccer-wise, they are just smart players. Natural.”

Both were all Sonoma County League selections this fall — Emily on the second team, Madison got honorable mention.

To a stranger, the most obvious difference between the pair is Emily’s slightly darker hair. Upon closer inspection, one realizes that Madison’s nose stud is in her right nostril and Emily’s nose ring is in her left nostril. Which is weird because Madison is left-handed and Emily is a righty. Which is then double-weird because Madison professes to be less artistic than her right-handed sister, which goes against oft-accepted beliefs about traits of right-handers and left-handers.

They are so-called mirror twins, hence the right hand, left hand thing. But it manifested in their teeth too — they are both missing a tooth, but on opposite sides of their mouths. Today, both sets of teeth are covered in braces and bands of the same color: teal.

For all of their similarities, the two branch out frequently, whether they intend to or not.

One will show up with hair braided, the other in a ponytail. One will have her practice jersey flipped to red, the other to white. One will wear Lions shorts, the other plain black.

But know this — they are remarkably close. Sure, they bicker, but who wouldn’t with someone who is on the same team, rides in the same car to school, takes the same classes and lives under the same roof?

Their dad, Jeff Dean, said as infants they slept in the same crib, always touching.

“They couldn’t be away from each other,” he said.

Tomas Morales found it comical the way the twins would be drawn to each other on the soccer field — until they weren’t.

“Whenever I wasn’t looking they would put themselves together — and then the argument would break out and I’d have to separate them,” he said.

“They would laugh it off afterwards.”

It happens on the hardwood, too.

“There is always bickering. It is cute when they get after each other,” Nordby said. “It never seems to fail that the two of them always seem to go against each other. They are always challenging each other. That part is good.”

“He’s always telling us to divorce each other,” Madison Dean said.

But with the bond comes a drive to best the other — a built in competitor at all things. Maybe that’s why they excel at sports; maybe that’s why they are both excellent students.

“Their parents never told them which was older so they are always trying to figure it out and outdo each other,” Tomas Morales said. “Maybe that is why they are so driven.”

Monica Dean has reason not to tell Emily and Madison who is older. She has twin sisters and the hierarchy of their family was always based on one being just moments older. Not on her watch, she said.

“They don’t know and they are not going to know until they are 18,” she said with a laugh.

That day will come soon. In June. Also coming soon are college decisions. In a new move, the twins say now that they will attend different campuses.

Nordby, among others, will miss them.

“They are amazing kids. I wish I had 20 of those kids,” he said.

Two will have to do.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com.