Bulldogs put it away in double-OTPublished 11:49pm Thursday, February 21, 2013
By Matthew Hatfield
No strangers to dramatic endings, the King’s Fork Bulldogs are used to playing more than 32 minutes when they get to the Norfolk Scope in the Eastern Region Boys Basketball Tournament.
In 2010, the Bulldogs lost a triple-overtime heart-breaker 87-86 to Maury in the regional quarterfinals at Scope. Last year, Hampton edged King’s Fork 57-52 in overtime in the regional semis, keeping them from grabbing a state tournament berth.
This time, King’s Fork made its third overtime game at the Scope the charm. Trailing by nine early in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs rallied behind tough defense and timely shot making to force overtime and then survived a second overtime, scoring the first 10 points of that extra session to outlast the Norcom Greyhounds 69-59 in Thursday night’s regional quarterfinals.
Senior guard Rod Parrett led the way with 18 points and seven rebounds, while senior forward Byron Taylor contributed a double-double with 14 points and 16 boards.
“It’s just great to have a bunch of kids that continue to believe no matter what the circumstance is,” remarked King’s Fork head basketball coach Josh Worrell following the win.
“I told them I never had a doubt that you weren’t going to believe in what I asked you to do. You could’ve easily stopped believing in that one overtime when Rod’s shot went in and out, but you kept working and fighting and fighting. At the end of the day, we just have to continue to working hard.”
After grabbing an early 12-8 lead, King’s Fork fell behind and would trail most of the evening against the Eastern District Champions, a team that came in riding a nine-game winning streak. To beat the Greyhounds and extend their own winning streak to 11 games, the Bulldogs knew it would take strong efforts from several different sources.
Senior guard Jacorey Smith battled fouled trouble and still managed to score 17 points, including the game-tying basket with 2.4 seconds left in regulation to force the first overtime. Down two again in the second OT, Smith calmly sank a pair of free throws with 6.1 seconds on the clock to keep his team’s season alive.
Then there was Taylor’s energy and hustle in the second overtime. Taylor gave the Bulldogs a 60-57 lead with a three-point play and sparked a 10-0 run to begin the second overtime offensively as well as defensively, where he yanked down a rebound and got a steal that led to a jam.
“He’s a great kid to have. He can do a lot of different things,” Worrell noted.
“Early in the game, he was getting frustrated because he felt he had mismatches and I told him just let the offense flow. When we start trying to go to one person every time, it messes up our offense. Another kid who believed with a high motor, arms above the rim a lot, gets a lot of rebounds offensively and defensively and a hard worker.”
Facing a Norcom team that beat them earlier in the regular season, Taylor and the rest of the Bulldogs had plenty of motivation. Their season was on the line, and when Norcom’s leading scorer Malique Trent fouled out with 2:02 to go in regulation, their chances of completing a comeback increased greatly.
“Norcom has a great ball club and they have great athletes. We had to game-plan on them and key on their star players Trent and [James] Whitaker,” said Taylor afterwards.
“This is actually my best game I’ve played so far. In the beginning, our team wasn’t playing very unselfish. Now, we’re buying into what we need to do. We kept believing that we could win, getting the rebounds and I was looking for my teammates.”
Making it to the Scope last year paid off for King’s Fork. So did all their pre-season conditioning down the stretch in a game that required 40 minutes to decide a winner.
“They get mad at me so much we ran at the beginning of the year and I say, ‘Look, if there’s one thing we can do it’s going to stay in shape and play defense. I don’t care if we can’t put the ball in the hoop, but you’re going to be able to do that.’ Hopefully, that continues,” Worrell commented.
Up next for King’s Fork is a match on Sunday at 8 p.m. in the regional semifinals versus Kecoughtan, champions of the Peninsula District with a record of 23-4 overall. The Warriors have two Division I basketball signees and plenty of size as well as experience on their side.
“It’s going to be another big game like this one,” Taylor said of the challenge. “We just have to come out and play hard. We’re excited.”
Worrell is trying to take the Bulldogs to the state tournament for the third time in school history.
“It’s the next step on our journey. That’s our fifth game in the postseason and we’re halfway towards our goal,” he noted.
“Five more games and we get a ring, but we have to take it one step at a time, which is Kecoughtan on Sunday. I watched them today and prior, and we’ve got to get back in transition. We can’t get beat in transition and we’ve just got to be ready to play, no matter what size, length, tall, big.”