The Osbourn girls basketball team is at its best ever this year, with a winning season that has been six years in the making. That ishow long tri-captains Julie DeRamus, Tracy Dufrene and Barbara Sudduth have been learning the game together. At 10-0 in the Northwestern District, 15-1 overall -- they have lost only to William Byrd of Vinton, Va., the favorite to win the state title -- their relationship has become an important one to the Eagles.

"The relationship {between us} has a lot to do with {our winning}," said Dufrene, the tallest player at 5-foot-10 3/4. "We've been playing together since the sixth grade. I'm more relaxed with them. We work well together and trust each other with the ball."

That trust has contrubuted to the depth of the team, according to Anne Yeatts, Osbourn coach for five winning seasons. "the reason they work so well together is that there is not a real hero, they are all solid players but there are no superstars," she explained.

Although Sudduth, a 5-4 shooting guard, is currently the team's leading scorer, averaging 14 points per game, Dufrene and DeRamus are close behind. Dufrene, who was also a top high jumper in the State AA Track Tournament, averges 13 points and 13 rebounds a game at center. DeRamus averages just 10 points at point guard, but her eight assist's and six steals make her one of the most valuable players. "One of the keys is that Julie has good court sense," Yeatts said. "She has great court awareness. She takes charge of the tempo of the game and controls the defense very well."

Juniors Cara Cheatwood and Missy Peters have also been playing together since elementary school. It did not take the duo long to blend into the starting lineup. "They are all very good athletes and very good team players. Each one is capable of scoring 20 points a night on any given night, so there is scoring balance," Yeatts said.

Despite the Eagles' ability to shoot baskets -- on Tuesday before a tough game against Loudoun Valley they were just 48 points away from an unprecedented 1000 season points -- scoring is not their first priority. Defense is what Osbourn emphasizes the most. "We play a hard pressing defense and a fast break offense," explained Yeatts. "My theory is that if we can keep the other team from scoring we will get our points. We must keep the other team from scoring."

That defense attitude made for a low-scoring game early in the season as the Eagles defeated district rival Loudoun Valley, 29-21. The Vikings, the defending Norhtwestern District champions, shut down Osbourn's quick offense but fialed to penetrate its strong defense. Osbourn averages almost sixty points game. The Eagles have defeated Park View, which finished with the best overall record last season, twice in district play this year, 64-45 and 52-47.

"We play defensively against them (Loudoun Valley)," said Sudduth. "They have a well-balanced teamed with good inside people and good outside shooters so we have to {stop them} by being balanced as well."

Perhaps Osbourn's biggest advantage is its tremendous speed. Quickness and good ball handling allows the team to make imemdite transition to offense. That strength and stamina is particularly potent in the Eagles' gymnasium, which is one of the largest in the county (courts may vary as much as twelve feet in length in the district), according to Sudduth.

"We're all quick run and gun. We could run everybody off the court," Sudduth said. Although Yeatts hesitantly speculates that such strenghts will lead the Eagles to a successful finish in the Northwestern District, Loudoun's Valley's Melissa Life thinks her team can challenge for district honors.

"I heard that they were great, but when they played us they must have had an off night," Life said. "I can't really be an accurate judge of them but I think we can beat them ad go all the way this season."