For three long seasons now, area girls basketball coaches preparing to face the Streator Lady Bulldogs have had to decide how best to deal with the dominating and at-times-unstoppable play of a Haynes.
This season, it's the boys basketball coaches' problem as well.
Siblings Natali and Jack Haynes — Natali the junior centerpiece of the Lady Bulldogs; Jack an emerging sophomore standout for the varsity boys team — have been a potent one-two punch for Streator basketball this winter. Through action Tuesday, the two have combined to score 873 points, pull down 670 rebounds and block 150 opposing shot attempts this season.
The big sister of the duo is putting up big numbers. Natali — already Streator girls basketball's all-time leading scorer and rebounder — enters next week's Class 3A postseason averaging 20.7 points, 16.4 rebounds and 5.3 blocks per contest.
That's translated to wins for the Lady 'Dogs, who have already have already surpassed 10 wins for just the fourth time this young century.
"We've really brought it together," said Natali, "and this team lately is playing some of the best games we've ever played."
"Natali, it seems, has been scoring 25 points just about every night lately, "SHS girls hoops coach Beau Albert said. "She's been unstoppable with the points, on the boards, everywhere. ...
"I've been fortunate to know both (Natali and Jack) since they were little, and you have to tip your hat to (their father) Ralph for what he did, taking them to the gym a lot as kids to play basketball. I've been fortunate enough to watch them grow up and see them progress, where they're at now from where they were when they were little has a lot to do with Jack, and also a lot to do with Mom getting them to AAU practices and all of that.
"When you have a family that loves the game of basketball the way they do, I'm not surprised things turned out this way."
While Natali has been the cornerstone the Lady Bulldogs have built around the past three seasons, Jack came into 2019-20 knowing he'd have a role on a Bulldogs team heavy with upperclass returnees. How large that role would be, however, remained to be seen.
As it's turned out, pretty large.
Jack — rapidly becoming almost as prolific a double-double machine as his sister — played his way into the starting lineup by the Bulldogs' fifth game this season and has blossomed since, enduring a few expected rough spots as an underclassman playing varsity but still entering this weekend's pair of road games averaging 12.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per outing.
"Jack has been a big difference-maker for us this season," said Bulldogs coach Beau Doty, his team 17-8. "His numbers and production speak for themselves, but when you watch him play, his instincts, especially on the boards, and great hands really stand out. ...
"There really isn't a ceiling for how good Jack can be. If he puts the time into getting stronger and developing his skill, he could be a really special player."
For the siblings themselves — who played as kids but say they're not sure who would win if they faced off 1-on-1 today (Natali says if she has to pick, "of course" it'd be her; Jack only that "it'd be a good game") — it's been rewarding to watch each other pile up successes on the same Pops Dale Gymnasium floor.
That has never been truer than on Jan. 30, when Jack was there rooting on his sister as she became the first girls basketball player in Streator High history to surpass 1,000 career varsity points.
"Hitting a thousand points was the best feeling in the world," said Natali. "To have everyone cheering and to be the first girl to reach that, it's crazy to think like that. It's just such an accomplishment, and my team has supported everything I've done. ...
"And watching Jack and him watching me, honestly, means so much. It's fun, because he knows what I'm capable of, and I know what he's capable of."
"The feeling is indescribable," said Jack of the siblings seeing each other have so much success in the high school game. "It feels like you're in a movie, where you go watch your sister play, and then you're playing and you look over and see your sister and she's telling you to post up or move around, giving you advice while you're playing. It just feels great."
With 313 points in the bank, Jack might be the odds-on favorite for being the next Streator High cager to reach 1,000.
"Oh, it's definitely a goal for me," he said. "A thousand would be great, and she still has another year to go, more great things coming, so who knows how far she'll take it, but I'd definitely like to reach 1,000."
Since Jack and Natali still have one more season to co-star at the high school level, maybe opposing coaches will find a way to stop Streator's Haynes siblings next year.
But I, for one, wouldn't count on it.