While most other sophomores are learning basketball on junior varsities, Penny Moore of Stuart High and Paula Schuler of Robinson High are showing juniors and seniors how to average 20 points a game.
They're outscoring everybody in the Virginia AAA Northern Region. Schuler leads with 293 points, followed by Moore's 280. The region's third-leading scorer, a senior, has 234 points.
Their head starts helped. They started playing basketball so long ago that they're more experienced than most upperclassmen. Schuler traded a soccer ball for a basketball when she was 9.
"My mother (Mary Lee Schuler) came home one day and said she had signed me up," Paula says. "She had played when she was younger and taught me everything I know."
Moore started about the same time, thanks to cousin Terry Puryear, a varsity assistant coach at Stuart, and uncle Michael Puryear.
"They knew I had height, so they tried to get me interested," she says. "It didn't take long, though."
Her father Sylvester supplied encouragement, and another cousin, Billy King (a Park View graduate, now a freshman at Duke), provided competition.
Two seasons ago, Schuler and Moore were good enough to make Northern Virginia AAU and select (Virginia Vogues) teams. Representing the Potomac Valley in a national AAU tournament in Seattle last July, Moore scored 33 points in one game, a career high.
At home this winter, each is surpassing her teammates in almost every statistic. Schuler averages 20.9 points and shoots 51 percent from the field, 81 percent from the foul line. Moore averages 20.0 points, shooting 59 percent from the field.
They lead their teams' defenses, too. Moore is averaging 16.6 rebounds per game; Schuler averages 7.0. Each is credited with 3.3 steals a game.
Moore, the flashier of the two, was among the area's leading scorers as a freshman, averaging 14.8 points. Dubbed "Virginia Slim" last summer, she is a lean 6 feet and 115 pounds, and has mobility and quickness. As a center, she is perfecting a turnaround jumper. As for her speed, she holds the district record in the 100 dash.
"What I like to do best is work the base line," she says. "My uncle and cousins really worked with me on my moves until I got them down.
"Beside scoring, I love to block shots and try to steal the ball. Sometimes I get into foul trouble, but it teaches the other team to respect me. They don't come in against me too soon."
"She's always been a quality player," her coach, Ron Wilson, says. "She's best at going after the rebounds and looking to the open player. She has exceptional ball handling for a person her size and if she can't take a shot, she won't force it. She kicks the ball back out and we try to set up."
At 5 feet 10, Schuler is sturdy and well-proportioned.
"Paula's presence takes a lot of the pressure off of the seniors to do everything," teammate Kathy Cotton, a point guard, says.
"She's quick," senior teammate Sabrina Moore says, "and can move the ball up the court, look for the open shot and gets to the rebounds if we need her to. We can run a fast break so well that we can tire out other teams."
"I don't think about being a top-notch player," Schuler says. "I might be better than most sophomores, but in comparison with seniors, I don't look as good. I concentrate on being a whole player, and would like to work on improving my left side and free throws. Sometimes when I'm shooting, I forget to follow through as much as I should."
Her shooting is what her teammates respect most. "She's got an awesome outside shot," junior teammate Kathy Pogharian says. Her range? "Anywhere."
"She's helped me a lot with my fakes and moves," senior Liz Jansen says. "Paula is really quiet, but she leads us by the way she plays."
Robinson Coach Traci Schneeweis' description is more complete: "Paula is a natural athlete and knows where she is on the court at all times. She reads the defenses accurately. She is so good because her intensity is up from the tip-off until the final buzzer.
"Paula plays both ends of the floor," Schneeweis says. "She has the potential to become the top player from this area, as long as she keeps everything in perspective and continues to learn."
"I want to rebound better," Moore says. "I try to rebound hard, especially when the score gets close. I know that can make the difference." She made the difference against Robinson recently, rebounding Sabrina Moore's miss with 1:10 to play and making a layup for a 50-49 lead in a 53-51 victory.
Moore and another sophomore, 5-5 point guard Julie Scherbenske, have transformed Stuart from a Potomac patsy with consecutive records of 1-21 and 1-20 to a Potomac powerhouse with a 14-6 record. The attitude and atmosphere is positive.
"The girls had heard about Penny and Julie even before they came here and they were really excited about getting quality players," says Wilson, who also joined the team last season after coaching boys for nine seasons.
"Penny has fit in very well with the upperclassmen because she is a very unselfish player and a very sweet young lady."
"Penny has made a big difference because we are winning now," says junior guard Mary Avis. "A lot of us wondered if we should even come back out for the team after we had won only one game. Now we're motivated."