ALBANY - There was a surprise waiting for Taylor Byrne Saturday morning, the kind of surprise that jolted her out of bed much quicker than any hotel alarm clock could.
"My brother Kyle was standing at the foot of my bed," Byrne said, unable to keep the exuberance out of her voice. "He was saying, 'Let's win a championship and can you not foul out?' "
Kyle Byrne is Taylor's older brother, a 30-year-old who serves in the United States Air Force and is stationed in Mississippi. He got permission to fly to Albany to watch his sister play her final high school basketball game.
Now both Byrne siblings are soaring.
Taylor, who fouled out of her team's semifinal victory Friday, was feisty and forceful in posting a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds. She teamed with tournament MVP Boogie Brozoski -- who had 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists -- to lead Long Island Lutheran to a 66-52 victory over Christ the King in the state Federation Class AA girls basketball championship game.
"This is more than incredible," Byrne said.
So were the Lady Crusaders (21-4), who won their third straight Federation crown, one in Class A and the last two in Class AA.
Byrne, Brozoski and another senior standout, Nani Redford (seven points, five rebounds) have played together since the fifth grade. "To three-peat with my friends . . . I'm thinking that I'm blessed," Byrne said.
So was Lutheran coach Rich Slater, who has coached that trio in summer ball since the fifth grade. "They are three very, very special kids," he said. "Taylor is the consummate teammate. She does all the dirty work. We couldn't have won without her."
Lutheran took control early and led by as many as 10 points in the second quarter, but Christ the King (21-5) closed the first half on a 9-0 run to take a 27-26 halftime lead.
There were three lead changes early in the third quarter before Brozoski scored five straight points in a 7-0 run and Byrne converted a three-point play to make it 44-35.
The Royals, who were led by Dominique Toussaint (18 points) and Long Islanders Sydney Zambrotta (North Babylon) and Kaela Kinder (Lawrence) with 13 points each, got no closer than five. They faded in the fourth quarter as Brozoski scored seven points, all from the foul line, where she was 12-for-14.
"I love to win, even more than I hate to lose," said Brozoski, who as a five-year starter for Lutheran won four Federation titles -- two in AA, one in A and one in B. That's a pretty good report card for her to take to Michigan next year.
"Three in a row. Four in five years. It's crazy," she said. "It was very special."
Of the Crusaders' second-half dominance after being challenged by CK, Brozoski observed: "They're a good team and good teams go on runs. We stayed calm, didn't get too crazy. Experience and maturity won the game."
Slater pointed to another reason: "When you have number 34, you have a shot to win any game."
Guess who wore No. 34?
Said Brozoski, "It will be difficult to take this jersey off."