Warriors fall to BulldogsPublished 10:32pm Wednesday, February 13, 2013
By Matthew Hatfield
Before a packed house in The Kennel on Tuesday night, the King’s Fork Bulldogs outlasted one of their archrivals, the Nansemond River Warriors, 71-63 in an exciting Southeastern District Tournament semifinal battle that had some twists and turns along the way.
Though the two teams technically split during the regular season, because Nansemond River was forced to forfeit a victory over the Bulldogs, King’s Fork was anxious to beat the Warriors on the court, especially in the postseason.
“There was a lot of motivation just to beat them,” admitted King’s Fork senior guard Akanni White, one of four players to score in double-figures with 14 points. “We wanted to come in here and beat them bad. Now we’re trying to get a banner on the wall.”
Early on, King’s Fork appeared set to get its rout, jumping on Nansemond River immediately and holding onto the lead late in the first quarter. King’s Fork shot 49 percent from the field in the first half, and senior guard Jacorey Smith put up 15 of his game-high 17 points before the break, keying their persistent penetration to the basket.
Smith was one of many Bulldogs players extra hyped to play a Nansemond River team that won last year’s district tournament title.
“This win means a lot to us. They beat us the last three times. We’ve been hurting from that, and we couldn’t lose to them another time on our home floor with it being playoff time,” Smith said. “It’s our senior year and we have to go all out. We want to bring the district tournament title back to our place.”
A three-point bank shot by White before the half-time buzzer gave King’s Fork a 41-27 lead and got the home faithful on their feet.
“When I caught it, I just looked at the clock, knew I was at the top of the key and I looked straight at the backboard,” explained White. “I heaved it up there, it went in and I knew the crowd was going to get live. It gave us a lot of momentum going into half-time.”
The King’s Fork lead would swell to 17 points in the third quarter, when Nansemond River finally began to rally. With 1:21 to play, the Warriors had pulled to within four points, but they got no closer, as King’s Fork made seven free throws to seal the deal.
Coach Josh Worrell was pleased with his team’s energy and passion.
“They battled well and did what we asked them to do,” he said of his Bulldogs. “I told them in the third quarter that it’s a game of runs and they’re going to give you a run. They had some kids make some big shots towards the end of the game. We withstood it there in the third quarter. Our kids did a great job with our scouting report of what we’ve got to do, and defensively understanding what we wanted to do.”
Donte Ralph had 13 points and Rod Parrett added 12 for King’s Fork, while Byron Taylor had nine points and 10 boards. Wallace McDowney grabbed nine rebounds as well.
In defeat, Devon Oakley led Nansemond River with 18 points, six rebounds and six assists. William Goodman chipped in 11, and Ed Drew had 10 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks. In the end, the Warriors couldn’t get enough stops.
“The first half was the worst defense we’ve played in a long time,” coach Ed Young said. “In the second half, we did a little bit better, but our rotations were bad. When our guards stopped them, the bigs didn’t. When our bigs got a stop, the guards didn’t. Of course, if we don’t play good defense, we suffer on the offensive end.”
“(King’s Fork) came at us with great intensity, getting rebounds and dribbling the length of the floor and laying it up. I haven’t seen that in years against us. Playoff time, you have to raise your awareness and focus, and your prime-time players have to step up in clutch times. It’s frustrating, because this is the atmosphere that we love, an opponent we love to play, a gym we to love play in and tonight we rushed at times and didn’t answer the call.”
Nansemond River takes its 17-7 overall record to Virginia Beach on Monday night to play Beach District regular-season champion Landstown in the opening round of the Eastern Region Tournament.
King’s Fork’s next opponent will be Western Branch, which upset top seed Great Bridge 71-69 in the other district tournament semifinal.
“It’s the next item on our journey. We talk about seasons. We have a first season, second season and a last season. Our last season can be 10 games,” Worrell said.
“I put up on that locker today that hey, we have a 10-game journey if you want to do it. Right now, it seems like they want to play 10 games. I said, ‘I want to play 10 games; it’s just a matter of whether you want to do it or not. I’m just along for the ride.’”