BILLINGS — As is typically the case for identical twins, Dickinson State's Heather and Hannah LaBree have been virtually inseparable since they entered this world 22 years ago.
Growing up on a ranch outside Ekalaka, the LaBrees were active in sports including rodeo, and honed their basketball craft playing on a cement court with a plywood backboard.
After helping Carter County High School reach the Class C girls state basketball tournament three times, the twins knew their future was in basketball.
There was no doubt that they'd continue their education and athletic careers at the collegiate level together, and that led them to Dickinson State, where they are currently playing out their senior season with the Blue Hawks.
"It's been super cool to always have a teammate that you're really close to that's also your sister," said Heather LaBree, who is younger than Hannah by about two minutes. "This year, we just want to make the most of it and enjoy one last year of a sport that we both love and grew up playing. We're making the most of it with these girls right now and enjoying it."
Dickinson State was in Billings this weekend competing at the Hampton Inn Green and Gold Classic hosted by Rocky Mountain College, which was held at Lockwood High School as RMC's Fortin Center undergoes some minor facility improvements.
The LaBrees, scrappy guards who stand 5-foot-5, helped spark a second-half rally Thursday against Montana Western, though Dickinson State ended up losing 66-57. Heather had eight points while Hannah grabbed three offensive rebounds as the Blue Hawks clawed back from what was a 27-point deficit.
Winning is always the goal, but the LaBrees are among a group of DSU players that truly enjoys each other's company no matter the outcome.
"We have so much fun," Hannah LaBree said. "Everyone is so giggly. We were laughing before the game — and I know you need to be serious sometimes — but this group of girls is just very sweet, very funny and super comfortable to be around each other."
Though they are seniors, the LaBrees do have an option to take their extra year of COVID-19-allotted eligibility next season. The twins, however, said this year is probably their last on the hardwood.
Heather LaBree is working toward a degree in exercise science. With that, she hopes to work in sports medicine, particularly in rodeo as an athletic trainer.
Hannah, who has been described as the Blue Hawks' de facto "team mom," is an agribusiness major, which she says will set her up for any profession in the agriculture field. She may return home to help her father tend to the family ranch.
Regardless, the twins are making the most of the time they have remaining together playing basketball.
"This year is really the first year in college where we've really got to play together (at the same time on the floor)," Heather LaBree said. "It kind of takes you back to high school and it's been really fun."
"You never know when your last game is going to be, even if it's your freshman year or your sophomore year," Hannah said. "So you kind of keep that in the back of your mind and use every day as it goes."