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Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Woodinville athletes' names have familiar, winning ring

Seattle Times staff reporter

WOODINVILLE — The lives of Amanda Best and Ashley Tuiasosopo intersected in random ways, long before they became good friends on the basketball court.

Best's mother, Tricia, was a Seattle Seahawks SeaGals cheerleader in the early 1980s, when Tuiasosopo's father, Manu, played on the defensive line for the Seahawks.

And Tuiasosopo's older brother, Matt, was drafted in 2004 by the Seattle Mariners, the organization for which Best's father, Karl, pitched parts of four seasons as a reliever in the mid-1980s.

"We were somehow all interconnected," Ashley Tuiasosopo says. "It's weird. Every day we find something, and we laugh."

No wonder they're so comfortable around each other.

Tuiasosopo and Best, senior captains on the Woodinville High School girls basketball team, make up one of the most dynamic duos in the KingCo 4A Conference, if not the state.

Best, a 5-foot-11 long-distance sharpshooter who has committed to play next year at the University of New Mexico, averages a conference-high 20.6 points and a team-high 9.7 rebounds. She transferred from Snohomish after her sophomore year.

"With Amanda, I've seen a girl that's grown a lot in the last year and a half," says Woodinville coach Steve Segadelli. "There's a lot of pressure on her because she committed early to New Mexico [last January as a junior]. I'm most proud that she's become a better team player, and also a good leader."

Tuiasosopo, a 5-8 point guard, is one of the league's top defenders and leads the team in steals, assists and offensive rebounds while averaging 13.6 points. She is the baby of the Woodinville Tuiasosopo clan.

Her older siblings are Leslie, a standout women's volleyball player at Washington; Marques and Zach, Huskies football stars who play in the NFL; and Matt, a top prospect in the Mariners' minor-league system.

"Ashley's a born leader. She knows how to motivate girls, how to get the best out of them, and sets a great example with her hard work," Segadelli says. "Her work ethic is exemplary in terms of a high-school kid."

Best and Tuiasosopo have guided a young Falcons team to an 11-3 record. Last year, they took a backseat to six seniors who led Woodinville to a KingCo 4A championship and the state tournament. This year, they are the team's only seniors.

"We still want to make it to state," Best says. "Talent and heart and desire, we still have it."

Adds Tuiasosopo, "We can't lower our expectations just because we're young."

Besides having professional athletes for fathers, they've found connections in other ways.

Each respects the other's competitiveness and talent.

"It's a comfort, knowing that if I get her [Best] the ball and we need some points, she's going to come through," Tuiasosopo says. "That's who I'm going to."

Says Best: "Defense. That's something you have to work hard at, something you can choose to do or not choose to do, something you have to put your mind to. And definitely, she [Tuiasosopo] does that."

Best began playing basketball in second grade, influenced by her father and grandfather, who both played basketball. She remembers showcasing her dribbling skills even before that, in a kindergarten talent show.

"It's definitely nice to have a family that knows what you're facing," says Best, who has an older sister. "To give you tips and help you. It's kind of cool to see them support you, doing something that they used to do."

Tuiasosopo grew up at her brothers' and sister's games. She ran on the court during timeouts, trying to squeeze in a few shots.

"That's all I knew. That's how I got into it," she says. "It was fun. They made it fun. I have four older siblings who are great role models."

While Best knows her immediate future, Tuiasosopo is keeping her college options open. She is leaning toward attending the University of Washington and walking on with the fastpitch team. She plays outfield for her high-school team.

Their paths diverge after this school year, but they can only guess how their lives will intertwine again.

Michael Ko: 206-515-5653 or mko@seattletimes.com

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