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Seffner's Dix sisters face off at UT, Saint Leo

Ray Dix said he and his family would have liked to see his daughters attend the same college. "But the situation didn't present itself, so we just go to as many games as possible at both schools," he said. Last Wednesday night, Dix saw his daughters in uniform together at the Bob Martinez Sports Center, but they wore opposing colors as they played against each other in a college basketball game for the last time.

Tonya Dix is a senior center at Saint Leo College and younger sister Kim is a sophomore forward at the University of Tampa. The family resides in Seffner and both starred at Armwood High School.

Tonya has been one of Saint Leo's few bright spots during a season in which the Monarchs have gone 3-18, 1-8 in the Sunshine State Conference.

She is tied for the team lead in scoring (15.0 points per game) and leads in rebounding average (8.3). Last month, she broke the Saint Leo career scoring record with her 1,356th point and could surpass the 1,500 mark before she finishes her career. She was named Sunshine State Conference player of the week Jan. 22.

"Tonya was captain of our first district champion," said Mark Sims, who coached the sisters at Armwood. "She's a muscle player inside. She just controls the lane in there. She was a little rough around the edges, but then she got some finesse and learned how to play.

"When Tonya was a senior, nobody really recruited her because she wasn't a real flashy-type player. She just goes out and gets the job done."

In Wednesday's game, Tampa defeated Saint Leo 87-66. But Tonya edged out Kim in their final personal battle. Tonya finished with 20 points and eight rebounds while Kim tallied 18 points and three rebounds. Earlier this season, Tonya also outscored Kim by two points in a Tampa win at Saint Leo. But Kim bested her sister on the boards with a 17-rebound performance, which equalled her personal season high.

"It's really fun to play against my sister," Kim said after Wednesday's game. "I'm definitely more pumped up when I have to play her. I'm usually the last one here before a game. Today I was the first one here. She's a great talent and I think she brings out the best in me."

Tampa coach Tom Mosca coached Tonya as a sophomore at Brandon High before Armwood was created. Then he had to coach against Kim when she played at Armwood.

"They were very good athletes and basketball players," Mosca recalled. "It hurt to lose Tonya and then Kim just killed us every time we played Armwood. I've finally got a chance to coach one of them again and it feels like justice has finally been served."

The sisters get a late start in basketball each year because of their volleyball commitments. Both received conference honors in volleyball, but Kim excelled. She helped take Tampa to the quarterfinals of the Division II national tournament last year and to the regional title match this season.

She signed a volleyball scholarship though she hadn't played the sport until ninth grade.

"I wanted to go to Saint Leo to play both sports with Tonya, but they told me they didn't want any big people," Kim said. (She's 5-feet-10.) "So I came to Tampa."

Tonya attended her first basketball practice two days before the season opener, but because of Tampa's volleyball successes, Kim missed UT's first six basketball games. The Spartans started out 1-6 but have gone 9-8 since and have posted a 6-3 record in the SSC prior to Saturday night's game at Barry.

Kim has been a major factor in Tampa's turnaround. Despite starting only two games, she leads the team in scoring (13.7 points per game) and rebounding average (6.0 per game). Her conference stats are even better: 15.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Kim's best individual game was a 30-point, 17-rebound performance in a losing effort against Lee College, which earned her SSC player-of-the-week honors of her own.

As Kim and the Spartans prepare for the SSC tournament, Tonya looks forward to graduation in April and a career as a physical education teacher or a coach. But the sisterly rivalry will be revived, if not on the college gym floor.

"They are always playing two-on-two with their boyfriends in the driveway," said Ray Dix. "Every time they come home, it's out to the court. I think the losers have to buy."