Home Makes Their Holidays Doubly Special : Women's basketball: Burge twins from Palos Verdes are among standouts at Virginia, which is competing in UCLA tournament.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

If you happen upon a very tall blonde, her hair in a ponytail and a smile on her face, chances are there's another one nearby. The Burge sisters have come home for the holidays.

They are identical twins Heather and Heidi, who have been walking tall on the basketball court since they were freshmen at Palos Verdes High, and more recently as members of the top-ranked Virginia women's team.

And as homesick juniors, the world's tallest female twins, at 6 feet 5, couldn't be happier. Not since high school have they been able to play before family and friends, which they will do at Pauley Pavilion today at 3:30 against UCLA and Sunday night at 6 against USC.

"They'll probably drag half of Palos Verdes out here," UCLA Coach Billie Moore said.

Probably. The twins were a big hit in the South Bay community, having not only led the Sea Kings to a 3-A girls' basketball title in 1987, but having concluded their high school careers Nos. 1 and 2 on the school's list of girls' scorers, Heather with 1,345 points, Heidi with 1,183.

Now they and their speedy perimeter players are gunning for an NCAA national championship.

The Cavaliers' backcourt, notably seniors Tammy Reiss and last season's player of the year, Dawn Staley, is one of the best. And the Burges are emerging as premier post players, which gives Virginia one of the most balanced attacks in the country.

"We're much more post-oriented (than in previous seasons) because our post game is so much stronger," Virginia Coach Debbie Ryan said. "We're rebounding so well, and we get all that scoring out of our post game."

The Burge twins arrived in Virginia in 1989 seemingly without a care in the world, except that the world they knew was 2,500 miles away. The Burges' apprehension about leaving home was such that Ryan promised them a trip to Los Angeles at some point in their college careers, should they choose Virginia over a number of major colleges.

They did, and the result was a Cavalier inside game for the first time in years.

As freshmen, they helped Virginia to the Final Four in 1989-90. They played key roles again last season when Virginia lost to Tennessee in the NCAA final.

It was then that Ryan decided to make good on her promise, feeling that the Burge sisters had developed to the point where she could "showcase them in front of their family and friends."

Ryan worked out a scheduling agreement with the NCAA and the two Southland schools, and then made the announcement.

"She told us we would be going home for Christmas," Heidi Burge said.

The Burge twins have been home since last Friday. They have been to the beach and the malls. They traveled to Santa Barbara on Monday night to watch their high school team win a holiday tournament. They even planned on taking in a taping of the Arsenio Hall show but discovered that taping would not resume until Jan. 31.

Still to come is the basketball, which should work out nicely for a Virginia team going up against two unranked opponents. However, it will be interesting to watch the Burges against USC and the 6-5 Lisa Leslie, whom the Burges haven't faced since high school.

"We've always had a big rivalry," Heather Burge said. "It's good to play against someone who's as good or better than you. We haven't played anyone 6-5 yet (this season), except we play each other every day."

But regardless of what happens on the court, the Burges will remember this holiday season as one they were able to spend with those whose support helped get them through their early days at Charlottesville, Va.

"This is the best Christmas I've had in years," Heather Burge said. "The last six were always cut out by basketball. It's nice still to be here. I like seeing my family, and we never get the chance because we're always rushed."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
68°