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Lake Taylor defeats Princess Anne 56to53
Lake Taylor defeats Princess Anne 56to53

Feyonda Fitzgerald had a big scratch on her left cheek. She limped after crashing and landing on her right knee. Her nose was swollen from a shot to the face.

It wasn’t nearly enough to stop her.

Lake Taylor’s Temple-bound senior took a beating and still managed to carry the weight of the Titans for three games – all but hand-delivering a Group AAA girls basketball championship.

The final performance of her career – 33 points – was enough Friday to provide a thrilling 56-53 victory over Princess Anne at Virginia Commonwealth’s Siegel Center.

While it was her second state championship, this one was all hers.

Lake Taylor (28-1) won its first title in 2010 – also with a victory over the Cavaliers – when Fitzgerald was a freshman.

As a senior, she had 36, 27 and 33 points to overwhelm opponents and set a three-game tournament record of 96 points – topping the 95 accumulated in 1999 by West Springfield’s Kara Lawson, who went on to play at Tennessee and in the WNBA.

Fitzgerald also came in needing 14 free throws to break the three-game record of 33 set in 1988 by Annandale’s Ann Marie Kennedy. Fitzgerald was 10 for 13.

“I wasn’t thinking about records,” Fitzgerald said. “I was thinking about winning another championship before I left.”

Fitzgerald broke the scoring record on a pair of free throws with 37.9 seconds left.

And after a trio of missed 3-pointers by Princess Anne, Fitzgerald snared the final rebound and was mobbed by her teammates as time expired.

“I knew my team would depend on me to do my part and that’s what I did,” said Fitzgerald, who also had 10 rebounds and six assists.

In Lake Taylor’s 55-48 loss to Princess Anne in the Eastern Region final, the Titans played their normal in-your-face, full-court style and gave up multiple fast-break layups. In the final, coach Saundra Sawyer turned to a 2-1-2 zone.

“It was hard because our first action after we score is to defend and deny,” said Sawyer, at times brought to tears after her team earned its second state title in four years. “But we couldn’t afford to pressure and let them beat us with cheap baskets. Princess Anne is so quick.”

At first, it didn’t look like a good plan.

Princess Anne (30-2) jumped out to a 10-point lead with 1:57 left in the first quarter and led 25-24 at halftime.

But Fitzgerald poured in 10 points in the third quarter for a 42-39 lead going into the final quarter.

“What didn’t she do tonight?” asked Princess Anne coach Darnell Dozier, whose team was competing in a record 10th state tournament and record seventh final while shooting for a record fifth title. “She’s a phenomenal player.”

Princess Anne closed the deficit to 50-49 on Justyce Swango’s 3-pointer with 2:37 remaining, but the Cavaliers could get no closer.

Fitzgerald’s effort was aided by an 11-point, 10-rebound performance from Endia McKinney.

Princess Anne was led by Morgan Cooper’s 17 points and five rebounds. Janayla White had one of her best games of the season with 15 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Swango had 13 points.

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