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Prep basketball: Cousins on top-ranked teams to tangle today

First names first.

In 1999, and two months into her pregnancy, Catina Dunn was a devoted follower of MTV’s “The Real World” series. She had been watching a UCLA undergraduate named Amaya Brecher on the show, and came to the conclusion that Amaya would be the name of her unborn child.

“And I didn’t know if I was having a girl or not,” she said with a laugh.

Several hundred miles away, Lisa Lewis was also expecting a child. Her pregnancy was a little more along than Catina’s. She, too, was a fan of “The Real World.”

And, it turns out, Lewis was also equally enamored with the name Amaya.

Thing is, neither expectant mother knew of the other’s intentions.

“I said, ‘Hey! That’s what I’m naming mine!'” Dunn said after Lewis gave birth. “We laughed about that forever.”

Those two teenage Amayas — who are also cousins, by the way — will face each other as basketball rivals for the first time in their lives at 5:30 p.m. today. Hobbs’ Amaya Lewis, who celebrated her 18th birthday on Thursday, heads north to face Cibola’s Amaya Brown.

Both teams are 7-0 this season.

And if the family roots weren’t enough of a draw, the Amayas also play for the state’s No. 1-ranked and No.-2 ranked teams in Class 6A. Cibola has the No. 1 ranking coming into this nondistrict showdown.

Brown promised that during these 32 minutes, her cousin will receive no quarter.

“During the game, we are not friends,” she said. “But I love her to death. Before and after, we’re cool. But we’ll both go at each other.”

They are related by marriage on Dunn’s side of the family, and have been close since they were little girls.

But through all their years playing club basketball, and through three years of high school basketball, the Amayas — both seniors — have never squared off as rivals.

“We’ve always talked about how we’ve never gotten to play each other,” said Lewis, a 5-foot-9 guard. “It’s crazy that our last season is our first time.”

These are surely two of the state’s elite talents.

Amaya Brown, a 5-11 guard and generally considered New Mexico’s best player, recently signed her national letter of intent with Florida State.

“She’s a phenomenal player,” Lewis said. “She has a great style of basketball and I love to watch her play.”

Amaya Lewis has offers from Weber State, New Mexico State and Florida A&M, among others.

Tonight could certainly portend another meeting in March. But there has been no trash talking this week, Lewis said.

“You’d think we would be,” she said, “but we’re actually laughing about it. I think it’ll be weird, but I know we’ll both take the basketball really serious.”

There are family ties at work beyond the Amayas. Their fathers, Pete Lewis and Greg Brown, were once high school rivals — Pete at Hobbs and Greg at Albuquerque High — and they faced off at the Pit in the state tournament. Later, they were teammates at New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs.

Catina Dunn is a Hobbs graduate and played for the Eagles.

“It’s gonna be real cool,” said Brown, who is two months shy of her 18th birthday. “It’ll be a fun game. (And) it’s gonna be a tough game. This will be one of our best games of the season.”

Will they end up guarding each another? “Probably,” said Amaya Brown, whose return from a knee injury that sidelined her all of last season has been spectacular.

They share much in common beyond basketball, Brown said, including a love for the singer Chris Brown. Both circled today’s date on their schedules when they were released.

“We can’t wait to see each other,” Brown said. “We don’t care who wins.”

Said Lewis, “At the end of the day, this game doesn’t matter.”

And when they see each other in the pregame today?

“When we see each other,” Brown said, “Amaya will come hug me like she always has.”

NOTES: In a rather odd coincidence, Hobbs-Cibola is not the only 1 vs. 2 Class 6A matchup tonight. Las Cruces’ top-ranked boys play host to No. 2 Cleveland tonight. … The Hobbs boys also are in town this weekend, and will play Cibola at 7 p.m. today, after the girls finish. Carlsbad’s boys and girls also are visiting the metro area, playing La Cueva today and West Mesa on Saturday. The Hobbs boys/girls have road games at Atrisco Heritage on Saturday.

n Manzano’s unbeaten 5-0 boys start will be severely tested tonight, when the Monarchs visit No. 3 Atrisco Heritage.

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