The amount of armor Taylor Kopple wore on her legs -- big braces on her left knee and both of her ankles -- looked like enough to slow her down at this weekend's Best of Maryland girls' basketball tournament at Damascus High School.
But the play of the rising senior at Sacred Heart Academy, an all-girls' private school in Louisville, seemed almost effortless last night, and she led her team to the championship of the 20-team tournament with a 79-58 win over ThunderRidge of Colorado.
Kopple, who injured her knee and ankles in games this summer, scored 19 points and added several excellent passes to her teammates to lead Sacred Heart.
"I hardly notice it anymore," Kopple said of the braces. "It doesn't really keep me from doing anything out there at all."
Kopple's performance was supported by Carly Ormerod, who had a team-best 24 points. Both are among a group of rising seniors who have won 111 out of 114 games in three seasons, including three Kentucky state championships. ThunderRidge, the two-time defending Colorado champion, was led by Emily Fox's 24 points.
The tournament started Thursday and included three days of pool play before the winners of the four pools met in the semifinals yesterday afternoon.
The tournament featured many of the area's top teams, including host Damascus, Theodore Roosevelt, Bishop McNamara, Arundel, Western of Baltimore and Paint Branch. The out-of-state guests included several state champions from across the country, including St. Mary's of Arizona and Centennial of Nevada.
Out of that elite group came Sacred Heart and ThunderRidge.
"We got great competition all weekend; we had no easy games in our pool," Sacred Heart Coach Donna Moir said.
Early in the first half of the championship game inside Damascus's steamy gym, Sacred Heart took control and was never seriously challenged after that. Kopple had eight points and two assists in the first five minutes, and Jordan Hess and Ormerod had four apiece as Sacred Heart plowed to an 18-3 lead.
ThunderRidge slowly chipped away and moved within 30-25 with two minutes left in the first half. But Ormerod had two baskets and an assist as Sacred Heart scored the last six points of the half and never again led by fewer than 10 points.
"We have a very close group," Ormerod said. "We all know each other so well, and that helps us out a lot."