Having sisters be the recipients of back-to-back district most valuable player awards is a rare feat, but for Josephine Elliott, it was an experience that she got to share with her younger sister, Jorja.
Not long after the District 6-5A team selections were announced March 1, Jorja sent a screenshot of the MVP award that she shared with fellow Lake Dallas junior, point guard Mackenzie Buss, to Josephine.
"My reaction was being beyond proud of her,” said Josephine, who was named the District 8-5A MVP for the 2019-20 season. “Mackenzie, too, because Mackenzie is like a sister to me. We're really close. I think it's so cool that they got to share the award. I didn't really see it as a surprise because I see how much work that she puts in. She puts her heart in it every year."
It’s hard work that Jorja and Josephine have put in since they were both five years old. That was around the age that their father, Mickey, let them play their first game of pickup. Josephine likes to brag that she won more games than she lost.
“Very intense games,” Josephine said. “We’re both very competitive.”
Long before they helped to lead Lake Dallas’ girls basketball team on a historic playoff run last year – a run that advanced the Lady Falcons all the way to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2008 – Jorja and Josephine were standouts on the soccer field.
Soccer was a sport that they both excelled in, but basketball was their true passion. When they got to middle school, they gave up soccer to focus solely on basketball.
"Honestly, I really love basketball way more,” Josephine said. “We always played soccer, so we didn't have time to play basketball. But, I told my dad, that I love basketball more and I want to get serious about this because I want to be really good at it by the time that I get to high school. So, I kind of transitioned to it. Once I did that, Jorja followed along because she was always at there at my games. Once we got to playing basketball, we got pretty good at it."
Jorja became so good at basketball that she earned a spot on the same AAU team as Josephine. The team, Texas Elite, competed in national tournaments as far away as Atlanta and Indianapolis. It was an experience that helped Jorja to work with Josephine on their on-court chemistry.
“She’s like a sister to me on the court,” Jorja said. “She’s always hard on me, put in my place a lot. But, it was really good for me. She would yell at me and get onto me and get harder onto me because she knew that she could.”
Jorja said the biggest way in which Josephine helped her to become comfortable with the speed of the high school game is with her mental approach. Handling pressure, decision-making and staying calm were the biggest pieces of advice that were offered by Josephine.
“I’ve been learning from her and polling her about what she does and her character,” Jorja said. “She’s helped me to build my skills a lot and my leadership with the team.”
Their finest hours on the basketball court came last year.
In their last year of playing high school basketball together, Jorja and Josephine helped to fuel playoff run for Lake Dallas that lasted four rounds deep. The Lady Falcons earns wins over Azle, Mansfield Legacy and Boswell, before falling to defending state champion Amarillo.
It was also a season in which the Lady Falcons earned a share of the district title, along with Denton Braswell.
Josephine was named the District 8-5A MVP after scoring 11.3 points per game in addition to her 4.4 rebounds, 2.1 steals and team-high 5.2 assists. Jorja cracked the First Team list after averaging 12.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals.
"It was especially special for me just because it was my senior year, my last year to play with her,” Josephine said. “We feel like we ended off the best way possible – other than not winning a state championship.”
While Josephine departed for the University of Texas at Tyler a few months later to continue her basketball career, Jorja was working hard in the gym and in the weight room to prepare for her junior season. Jorja wanted nothing more than to help Lake Dallas to build on that historical season.
Not only was Jorja coming back, but so was one of her closest friends. Buss was a welcome sight for Lake Dallas players and fans after she missed all of her sophomore season with a knee injury.
They proved to be quite the combo.
In a season in which Lake Dallas finished with a perfect 14-0 record in district play, including two wins over state-ranked Grapevine, Elliott and Buss took turns filling the stat sheet. Elliott scored 29 points in a 69-66 overtime win against the Mustangs on Jan. 5. Buss poured in 30 points in a 59-44 win for the Lady Falcons on Jan. 29, a game that clinched the district title for Lake Dallas.
Lake Dallas’ playoff run this year lasted three rounds deep, with wins over Aledo and Mansfield Timberview, before a season-ending loss to Wichita Falls Rider.
Buss and Elliott shared District 6-5A MVP honors. Elliott averaged 15.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
"It's pretty cool that we shared it because we both worked really hard for it,” Jorja said. “I think that we're both very deserving of it. I'm proud of her because she's like my best friend, like another sister to me. It's special."
Colleges are already taking notice of Jorja, including from the college that Josephine plays for. Jorja was presented with an official offer from UT Tyler on Oct. 15, 2020.
“The coaches were like, ‘Is it okay with her if she comes up here and talks to us?’” Josephine said. “I was like, ‘Heck yeah, I would love to play with my sister again.’”