Basha’s sisters Gabriella and JJ Garcia share unique bond through sports

Sisters J.J. and Gabriella Garcia wearing track and field jerseys and medals

Sisters JJ, left, and Gabriella Garcia share a special bond at Basha High School as they prepare for their respective state championship runs. (Photo courtesy of Gabriella Garcia)

By Hayden Cilley

April 30, 2024

Sisters Gabriella and JJ Garcia are outstanding athletes at Basha High in Chandler who share a strong bond of friendship and inspiration.

CHANDLER – As the Basha Bears softball and track and field teams gear up for their respective state championship runs, one pair of sisters are cementing their legacy at the school.

Gabriella and Juliana (J.J.) Garcia have been dominant in their respective sports. Gabriella, a senior infielder on the Bears softball team, recently committed to the University of Oklahoma softball team, the top collegiate program in the nation. Gabriella is currently batting .507 with 27 runs batted in and 31 runs scored. When she isn’t on the diamond, she throws the javelin and does it with excellence, placing first at every competition this season.

Her younger sister J.J., a junior, placed first in discus throws at the Red Mountain Rampage and the Shadow Ridge Showcase with a distance of 134 feet, 5 inches and 133 feet, 11 inches respectively. She also placed first in shot put at the Red Mountain Rampage with throws of 36 feet, 11 inches and at the Devon Allen Invitational with 36 feet, 11.25 inches.

The softball state championship games begin Saturday for Gabriella, while the track and field state championships start Wednesday for J.J.

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Although sibling rivalries are common in most households, the Garcia sisters don’t see their respective achievements as one trying to be better than the other. In fact, they use their experiences to help each other learn and flourish.

“Growing up being the older sister, you’re always the first to try everything new,” Gabriella said. “I get to try everything first and then I get to help her and make sure she gets exactly what she needs in order to perform and become the best person, per person, athlete student that she could become. I mean, she is 10 times greater than I will ever be.”

After a big smile, J.J. gave her share of compliments and love to her big sister.

“I admire her hard work,” J.J. said. “She sometimes works harder than me and it’s like I want to be just like her. When she’s working, I know I have to be working too because I want to be where she’s at.

“She’s just accomplished so much. I idolize her so much… This is my sister. This is my big sis and I’m just so proud of her and I’m going to be sad when she leaves for college. All I know is that she’s still going to be with me and I’m going to be hearing her voice just saying ‘You can do this.’”

Without influence from her big sister, J.J tried out for the track and field team, specifically with the shot put and discus. She vividly recalls the first time she threw, as well as the positive culture around the event.

“Honestly, when I put the disc in my hand and it just like flew out there, I was like, ‘Oh, I like this. I get to throw stuff,” J.J. said jokingly. “Honestly just like going to the meets and the environment that the track committee provides for us, everyone is so supportive. Your competitors, they cheer you on, you make friends and they also become your supporters and you want to see them exceed as well as yourself.”

The encouragement between both sisters radiates throughout the campus. Basha softball coach Kailey Pomeroy witnessed that firsthand when she coached both sisters on the elementary school softball team. Even with J.J. focusing solely on track and field and Gabriella pursuing both sports, the former Basha Bear hopes that their sisterhood will be an example of true sibling love.

“So, I have two little girls and I hope my kids are close like that,” Pomeroy said. “I got to watch J.J playing softball (when she was) younger and she’s actually pretty good. She hit the ball very well, but just kind of watching them support each other and the way that they talk to each other and all that has been really special. I really think that’s a cool thing to have.”

Pomeroy noted how Gabriella’s treatment of her younger sister is indicative of her personality. Her interactions, coaching and mentoring of the underclassmen on the team reflect on her upbringing.

“I think the biggest thing this year is watching our freshmen… we did bring six freshmen in this year and watching them respond and watching them ask questions and just kind of learn and allow her to coach and, and kind of mentor them,” Pomeroy said. “And not just her, but our other seniors as well. Even seeing that relationship with her and our seniors and our juniors and even our underclassmen, she’s done a phenomenal job.”

The tight-knit bond between the sisters stems back to their parents. Kara Brun (now Kara Brun-Garcia) left a lasting legacy on the Arizona State softball program. A native of Arizona and graduate of Deer Valley High School in Glendale, she helped lead the Sun Devils to the 2002 Women’s College World Series before losing to the eventual champion and Pac-12 rival, University of California Berkeley Golden Bears.

Even with athletic prominence, Gabriella credits much of her success to her family upbringing, attitude and work ethic.

“Both of my parents in general, they break their backs to provide us with this amazing life that we have and they’re both so incredible,” Gabriella said. “They’re incredible people and they raised us to have great morals, to stay humble, to keep, to work hard.”

The morals and mentality came from Kara and her upbringing. She and her husband, Jason, shared the same vision for both of their kids.

“I just think we pushed family,” Kara said. “Since they were born, family was the most important thing and the same with my husband’s upbringing. So from day one, no matter what, we’re just family and we love each other through the good and bad.”

After her dominance at Arizona State, Kara learned what goes into being not just a successful softball player, but a successful athlete.

“I just knew what it took to get there,” Kara said. “I know how it starts out. It’s kind of like a triangle when you’re young. It’s really wide at the bottom and at the top it starts to shave off kids. I knew the level they had to get to, to where they can be successful and compete because I’ve already been through it.

“I kind of know the expectations of what they expect for you in college. I know the work that it takes to get there. I basically just took what I knew and instilled that all into them.”

Kara eventually became the head coach of the Basha softball team from 2017-2021. When Pomeroy replaced Kara, it allowed the mother-daughter duo to really have a mother-daughter relationship.

“My mom is also one of my best friends,” Gabriella said. “I have an extremely close relationship with her and growing up, she always was my coach. After she retired, we became a lot closer and we learned about a mother-daughter relationship and having that has just been extremely helpful. She’s so wise and no matter what, she’s going to put us in the best situation to succeed.”

Kara took the lessons she learned as a player and folded them into her job as a coach, as both Gabriella and J.J. were around softball since they were infants. Kara even laughed when talking about coaching kids when they were still infants.

Still, Kara knows what goes not only into coaching, but using coaching to build up great athletes.

“I would just say it’s commitment,” Kara said. “It’s honestly what you’re willing to put in is what you get out and that’s kind of what we stress to our kids. It’s a ton of time. You’re not going to become great overnight and they just know that.

“It’s just time, it’s sacrifices, it’s everything you can do to help the kids come better.”

While Kara and Gabriella remain intense when it comes to athletics, they both see something different in J.J., who has a unique quality that sets her apart.

“She has a calmness about her and humbleness about her… something that you find very rare in a person,” Gabriella said. “She does not feel pressure, like she does great under pressure. I admire the calmness. It’s very hard to find in people and I admire her. Always motivating people and always wanting to push those around her.”

J.J., seems to be far beyond her years in terms of maturity, according to Gabriella and Kara. J.J. certainly has a unique perspective on sports that allows her to perform at the highest level, while also sharing what she’s learned with her teammates and even her sister.

“It’s patience because sometimes you just want it now versus enjoying the journey,” J.J said. “The process of sports… just having this long journey of going like, ‘I’m getting better and better each time.’ You get those little bumps and it’s frustrating, but just enjoying the journey and having patience with the sport is what it taught me.”

Kara witnessed the lessons learned from both Gabriella and J.J. during their athletic endeavors. She also became emotional and full of gratitude when she heard the praises her daughters were giving her.

“It means the world to me because they are mine,” Kara said. “They’re my kids, I’ll do anything for them. Obviously, I feel very honored and special that my daughter’s thinking of me that way. I remind them daily that I don’t love you for the athlete that you are, the softball player that’s going to OU or the great javelin thrower or the great discus and shot put thrower.

“I just remind them every day that I love them for the people they are, the character that they have and the love they show in the community.”

Author

  • Hayden Cilley

    Hayden Cilley expects to graduate in December 2024 with a master’s degree in mass communication. Cilley covered the Phoenix Mercury in 2022 for The Next Hoops and is writing and podcasting about the Mercury for PHNX Sports.

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