The memory of her late father is on Lauryn Taylor’s mind every time she takes the court.
The Spring Valley High junior forward still has one of her father’s conference tournament championship rings and honors him during her pre-game ritual. That will continue Friday when the Vikings play Goose Creek in the Class 5A basketball championship.
“Before every game, I say a prayer and I will say, ‘I love you Dad, 35,’ ” Taylor said this week.
Rodney Taylor wore the No. 35 during his playing days at Villanova after a standout career at A.C. Flora. He was part of Flora’s teams that made back-to-back title appearances in 1985-86, winning it all in 1986.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The State
At Villanova, Taylor averaged 7.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in 115 career games and was part of the Wildcats’ two NCAA tournament teams. He played overseas after college and died after suffering a heart attack in 2015.
“We were close. … He told me to be strong and be confident in my shot,” Lauryn said. “We watched basketball all the time and played games. He used to show videos from A.C. Flora and videos from Villanova.
“His old teammates from A.C. Flora and also the X-man (Xavier McDaniel) they tell me how he used to play. And how I mirror what he does, and it means a lot to hear I could do what he does.”
Taylor said her father taught her a lot about the sport, especially how to develop her post game and drop step. As a sophomore a year ago, she averaged 13.4 points and 12.1 rebounds in helping to the Vikings to the state championship.
This season, Taylor averaged 10.7 points and 8.5 rebounds and has a pair of double-doubles in the playoffs, including a 22-point, 15-rebound performance in the third round against Nation Ford. She had 13 points and nine rebounds in the 5A Upper State title game against Sumter.
“She is doing a much better job moving her feet and her body and her strength. She is a beast on the block,” Spring Valley coach Megan Assey said. “When she makes up her mind, she can dominate down there and really do it.
“She is special kid and is my classroom every single day, maybe too much wanting to talk about the game and how to get better. I know her dad is up there smiling down on her.”
At Colonial Life Arena in Columbia
Admission is $12
TV: Games will be carried locally on WACH 57.2. Ridge View and Wilson’s game will be on WACH 57.
INTERNET: All games will be streamed on www.nfhsnetwork.com (subscription required)
RADIO: Andrew Jackson-Gray Collegiate, Spring Valley and Ridge View games will be carried on 102.7 FM and online and the station’s app.
Class A Girls Championship
High Point Academy vs. Scott’s Branch, 3:30 p.m.
Class A Boys Championship
High Point Academy vs. Hemingway, 5 p.m.
Class 5A Girls Championship
Spring Valley vs. Goose Creek, 7 p.m.
Class 5A Boys Championship
Berkeley vs. Dorman, 8:30 p.m.
Class 2A Girls Championship
Christ Church vs. Mullins, 10:30 a.m.
Class 2A Boys Championship
Gray Collegiate vs. Andrew Jackson, noon
Class 3A Girls Championship
Keenan vs. Bishop England, 2 p.m.
Class 3A Boys Championship
Keenan vs. Ridgeland-Hardeeville, 3:30 p.m.
Class 4A Girls Championship
North Augusta vs. South Pointe, 5:30 p.m.
Class 4A Boys Championship
Wilson vs. Ridge View, 7 p.m.