WARRENSBURG — The competition started years ago outside the Livingston family home. There is a basketball hoop cemented into the ground and a court that's big enough for a 3-point line in all but one spot.
Taylorville senior twins Nick and Jack Livingston started there and the basketball ride began in full force in second grade on a team full of players that would later comprise a wildly successful Taylorville Class of 2019.
There was success before high school and the Livingston boys played for three years on the Tornadoes' varsity team that had back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1958 and 1959.
On Wednesday at the Heart of Illinois All-Star Classic at Warrensburg-Latham, the ride in a Taylorville jersey came to a close. Nick was named MVP of the game.
“It’s a little sad, but it’s nice to see how far we’ve progressed and how far we’ve come," Jack said.
Though the twins are far too competitive to wave good bye to basketball altogether. They, along with Taylorville teammate Ryan Ess and their older brother, Grant Livingston, will play on a rec league team next year at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where all three Livingston boys will go to pharmacy school.
The three will rent a house and live together — they're close like that. Their closeness is met by a competitive drive. Nick claims it's just in basketball. When Jack heard that, he smiled and looked up in the air. It's actually in everything, Jack said.
The constant pushing and pulling to make each other better led Nick and Jack to a big senior season for Taylorville. Jack averaged 13 points per game, set a school record for made 3-pointers in a season with 110 and shot 46 percent from behind the 3-point land. Nick averaged 12.8 points and was a versatile scorer who could find the bottom of the net from any level.
If Jack did something, Nick tried to match it, and vice versa.
"The constant pushing each other back and forth, trying to get better is something I don’t think could have been replaced in any other way," Nick said.
They've played a big role for the Tornadoes, who have found massive success in the Apollo Conference. Taylorville lost in the regional championship to Lincoln this year, but not before a 30-point win over Quincy Notre Dame in the semifinals. Before that game, which could have been the final game of their high school careers, Jack sat in the locker room and did homework. Nick is more of a flashlight on the bus on the way back of a road trip type of guy. Come game time, though, they were locked in.
“Obviously they’re a big deal," Taylorville coach Ryan Brown said. "They were a part of getting this going the last couple years. Those kids rarely missed a workout, rarely missed an open gym — if they ever did. They rarely missed a summer practice for anything."
In one-on-one, full-court drills, Brown could bank on the twins lining up to go against each other. Things got fierce, maybe a hard foul here or there, but always for the sake of making each other better. And, no fist fights, those eluded the twins.
"No matter where we go or what we do, we always have to guard each other every single time," Nick said. "It gets annoying and it gets old because we practically cancel each other out at that point."
Back-to-back 20 win seasons is a big deal in Taylorville. The Livingston twins were a clear part of the success. That's not lost on them, or Brown. Their success, and in turn a part of Taylorville's success can be traced back to a hoop at the Livingston family home — and about every overly-competitive brother clichè in the book.
“It’s something that we’ll never forget," Nick said. "It hasn’t happened for 50-60 years. Our names are always going to be in the history books. Anytime someone can look back for a team to compare to, they’re always going to think about that team. It’s pretty cool to be a part of that."
Said Jack: “I think it was really special. Keeping that same group of seniors together for that long is sometimes difficult, but we pulled it off. It was pretty special for us. Especially for me."