Lady Bulldogs fall to Lake TaylorPublished 11:46pm Thursday, February 21, 2013
By Matthew Hatfield
The King’s Fork Lady Bulldogs came to the Norfolk Scope for a second straight year with a purpose. That goal was to knock off one of the state’s powerhouse programs, the Lake Taylor Titans, a team that won a state title three years ago and entered Thursday afternoon’s Eastern Region Tournament quarterfinal versus King’s Fork with an unblemished record of 23-0 overall.
For 30 minutes, King’s Fork played one of Virginia’s best girls’ basketball programs evenly. In the final few precious possessions however, Lake Taylor got the better of the Lady Bulldogs. Lake Taylor broke a tie with 1:53 remaining by closing on a 6-1 spurt to bounce King’s Fork from the tournament, 61-56.
Reflecting on the heart-breaking loss, King’s Fork coach Maurice Fofana felt his team might’ve stunned the Scope crowd and won had they been able to execute better offensively in the closing moments.
“I think it boiled down to just a couple of bad possessions for us late in the game, and I think they wanted it more than we did,” Fofana said afterwards.
“Some of it could’ve been the game experience for them, but we had the opportunities and were right where we needed to be. It was either a slight turnover or we came down and took a bad shot.”
Early on, King’s Fork was just as aggressive as a Lake Taylor squad known for its speed and tenacity. The Lady Bulldogs had leads late in the first and second period, ending each quarter tied — 12-apiece after one period and 32-all at the half. In fact, King’s Fork went into the half out-rebounding Lake Taylor 24-22 but was plagued by 10 turnovers and struggled to stop Feyonda Fitzgerald, Lake Taylor’s star guard signed to play College Basketball at Temple.
Fitzgerald almost recorded a triple-double with 24 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. She had 17 of her points in the first half alone. Using a 2-3 zone defense for most of the game, King’s Fork concentrated most of their attention on her in the second half and at times that worked, staying tied with 2:47 to go in the third quarter.
Lake Taylor began to impose its will on the boards, though, in the second half, out-rebounding King’s Fork 27-9 over the game’s last two quarters and getting 13 second chance points off their 29 offensive rebounds. The Lady Titans sank eight three-pointers, including one in the last two minutes of the third quarter and the fourth quarter to break a tie each time.
The Lady Bulldogs certainly wished they could’ve had senior guard Shaikeyla Jordan at their disposal against Lake Taylor. Jordan suffered a torn MCL in her knee in the Southeastern District Tournament Championship win over Western Branch.
“Us losing one of our starters in Jordan kind of hurt us. We really missed her on the defensive end of the floor. But we had our chance to win it without her. We were right there nip-and-tuck the whole way through and we were definitely where we wanted to be,” Fofana admitted.
“Against good teams, you can’t have some of those wasted possessions and that unfortunately happens for us, even though we did a lot of good things. I think fatigue was a big factor for us.”
Leading the way for King’s Fork in defeat was All-Southeastern District First Team performer Khadedra Croker with 14 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor to go with nine rebounds and six blocks. Senior forward Chantel Roberts added 12 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Julissa Riddick, another senior forward, contributed 11 points and four assists.
The Lady Bulldogs finish one of their most successful seasons in school history at 23-4 overall. King’s Fork will lose six seniors to graduation, though Fofana is optimistic about what the future holds for the 2013-14 campaign and beyond.
“We’ve done it with kids that are not Division I players. You look at Lake Taylor, they’ve got a Division I kid. These teams that we are losing to have Division I players across the board,” said Fofana.
“I haven’t had a Division I players yet in the last three years. Croker will be a Division I player, but she’s a junior. We’re trying to build it block by block. We’re knocking on the door and it’s just a matter of breaking through. I thought this was our breakthrough game and we let it slip away.”