Two girls were talking in the stands before a middle school basketball game last week.
One was telling the other about Harlem's No. 10, the seventh-grader with the ponytail.
"She plays first base in softball," the girl told her friend. "She was like the best one on the team. And now she's playing basketball."
The girl went on to explain how No. 10, Olivia Fitzgerald, lost her right arm from the elbow down in a lawn-mower accident when she was 3 years old.
But there was Olivia on the court.
She had moved from driveway games of HORSE with her dad to trying out for the Bulldogs' middle school squad. Now she is in the starting five.
On Oct. 28, Olivia sank a 3-pointer to beat Columbia Middle, 17-15. It was her first game of organized basketball.
"I'm always amazed at her," said her father, P.K. Fitzgerald. "I never cease to be amazed."
He wasn't sure what to expect after taking his daughter home from the hospital after her accident.
Olivia began tying her shoes with her teeth and her left hand. When she saw that her friends' bicycles had their training wheels off, she wanted hers gone, too.
Her father obliged. Olivia took off with no problem.
When Olivia wanted to fish, Fitzgerald fashioned a rod with a cup to rest on her right arm so she could reel with her left hand.
She soon learned to fish without the cup.
She also enjoys hunting. She and Fitzgerald sit in the woods near their home and wait for squirrels. They target-practice with a BB gun in the backyard.
There are few things Olivia can't do and that frustrate her, but Fitzgerald has tried to remain encouraging and believes prayer has helped his daughter through it all.
"I usually just tell her we all have limitations," he said. "There are things that I can't do. We just try to overlook those things."
Olivia started organized sports early as one of the few girls on her tee-ball team. She has played recreation softball and on the Harlem Middle team.
She said the sport helped prepare her for basketball.
"I practiced at home all the time," she said. "Probably about two years just shooting and messing around."
Fitzgerald said he tried to talk his daughter out of a game of HORSE recently, playfully suggesting there was no way she could win and to give up the thought.
"She beat me twice," he said. "I didn't give it to her. She took it."
Her practice on the court paid off.
With Harlem down 15-14, Olivia received a pass and dribbled down the floor. Her shot hit nothing but net with 50 seconds left, and Harlem had its first win of the season.
Bulldogs coach Benjie Moore said he had seen Olivia walking around school, but didn't know her until she walked into the gym for tryouts.
There is not much difference between the play of Olivia and that of everyone else on the floor. She drives to the hoop and shoots with little trouble, although sometimes too often for Moore's liking.
"I don't take any pity out for her," Moore said. "And I don't think she expects any. That's the way I like it. She's just another player."
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