RICHMOND — Lake Taylor’s hectic full-court press and reckless fast break offense are designed to take opponents out with demoralizing scoring bursts. For much of Monday afternoon’s Virginia 4A state semifinal, the Titans seemed on the brink of putting Champe away with a long scoring run.
But the Knights hung tough. Champe remained close into the final minute but got no closer in a 76-69 defeat at VCU’s Siegel Center. “We talked about it at the beginning of the game, we said ‘we’re going to get hit,’ meaning they’re going to come at us really hard, and we had to be able to fight back,” Knights Coach Bill Maher said. “We came out and fought really hard in the second half.”
Champe (22-5) made one field goal and committed eight turnovers in the second quarter as Lake Taylor’s lead and confidence grew. In the third quarter, Champe adjusted to the speed of the game and outscored Lake Taylor 25-16 to take a 48-47 lead.
“Credit to Lake Taylor — we’ve never seen speed like that. At this level you have to adjust on the fly to that,” Champe senior guard Zach Burdick said. “That was something we struggled with first half, but as soon as we became accustomed to it and starting executing in the second half, you saw the turnaround.”
Champe’s leading scorer, senior forward Kuony Deng, who averaged better than 19 points per game, posted just seven points and was hampered by foul trouble.
“It was real tough because they’re coming from all over, they’re all over the floor” Deng said. “They’re just a different look than what I was used to.”
Senior Sean Prendergast picked up some of the scoring slack with 18 points. After Lake Taylor took its largest lead at 67-56 with just more than four minutes remaining, junior Dom Fragala scored eight straight points to cut the deficit to four.
“We were losing and somebody had to start scoring,” said Fragala, who scored 14 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter. “I had to start creating my own offense because we needed quick buckets.”
Prendergast drained a three to cut the deficit to 71-67 with 59 seconds remaining before Lake Taylor used a 5-0 run to end Champe’s best season in the school’s four-year history.
Sophomore Joe Bryant scored 15 points to lead the Titans, who finished with five players in double figures and advanced to their first state final in boys’ basketball.
More from AllMetSports