Bulldogs fall to Warriors in semifinal game

Published 12:01am Monday, February 25, 2013

King’s Fork may have been competing against a Kecoughtan team that was long in height with two Division I recruits on Sunday, but it was the Bulldogs who assumed a commanding presence in the first half of the Virginia High School League’s Eastern Region tournament semifinal.

R.E. Spears III/Suffolk News-Herald King’s Fork High School senior forward Byron Taylor tries to get a shot around a Kecoughtan defender during the Bulldogs’ 58-48 loss Sunday night in the semifinals round of the Virginia High School League’s Eastern Region Basketball Tournament.
R.E. Spears III/Suffolk News-Herald
King’s Fork High School senior forward Byron Taylor tries to get a shot around a Kecoughtan defender during the Bulldogs’ 58-48 loss Sunday night in the semifinals round of the Virginia High School League’s Eastern Region Basketball Tournament.

Rushed offensive play by the Bulldogs and a startling number of free-throw opportunities for the Warriors in the second half changed the shape of the game and ultimately ended King’s Fork’s compelling season with a 58-48 loss at the Norfolk Scope Arena.

“The second two quarters, we just weren’t able to execute offensively what we wanted to do,” King’s Fork head coach Josh Worrell said.

The trademark Bulldog defense was effective in the first half, but not so much in the second.

“Defensively, we did the same thing we did the first half. Unfortunately, (the referees) started blowing the whistle then,” Worrell said.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 9-2 advantage in the first quarter and held a 13-9 lead at the end of the period. They won the second quarter, too, up 27-21 at halftime. Senior guard Akanni White was shooting well, with nine points at the break, and senior guard Jacorey Smith also had six.

The second half could be summed up by the image of Warriors senior forward/center Rodney Bullock shooting free throws.

“That’s all he did,” Worrell said. “He made two baskets and scores (18) points.”

He led all scorers with that amount. Though he was only 2-of-7 from the field, he went 14-of-14 from the line for the game. The Warriors shot a total of 19 free throws in the second half alone, matching the total number that the Bulldogs shot in the game.

With 5:07 remaining in the third quarter, Bullock hit a foul shot that put his team ahead 30-29, a lead it never relinquished.

The Bulldogs tried to dial up the defensive pressure, but were routinely called for fouls, which stunted their efforts.

“It has to have, because at that point you’re worried about them blowing the whistle, instead of playing good solid defense (like) what we’ve done all year long,” Worrell said.

Smith, senior small forward Byron Taylor and senior forward Donté Ralph all ended the game with four fouls apiece. On the other end of the court, the Bulldogs followed the advice of assistant coach Theotis Porter and attacked the rim.

“We got to the cup, but we couldn’t finish; we couldn’t get a whistle,” Worrell said.

The officiating gave Worrell a sickening case of déjà vu.

“It was just kind of frustrating,” he said. “This is two years in a row that’s happened to us with playing a team here at this round.”

Last year, it was when they lost 57-52 in overtime against a Hampton team that shot 30 percent from the field and scored on nothing more than free throws in overtime.

On Sunday, the Warriors outscored the Bulldogs on second-chance points, 13-4, and out-rebounded them 36-18. Worrell acknowledged Kecoughtan’s height, but did not think that was the only factor.

“We’re there trying to rebound and it’s hard to rebound when you got guys grabbing on you, holding on you,” he said. “You’re trying to get the rebound, and unfortunately, you just couldn’t get it.”

Nevertheless, Worrell was cognizant of things his team could have done to still win the game.

“The second half, they went to a zone, and we just started shooting quick shots, which allowed them to get back in the game,” he said. “If we were a little more patient offensively early in the third quarter, I think we’d have a different outcome.”

In the fourth quarter, King’s Fork cut the lead to four with about 2:35 to go off free throws from senior guard Rod Parrett. Worrell shared what he was telling his team in the timeouts at this point in the game.

“The game was still right there, we’re two possessions away, two possessions away,” he said. “We stayed at two possessions away and just missed a free throw or (missed an) opportunity on a layup or lost a ball on a loose ball where I thought we could get it.”

White and Smith only scored two points apiece after the half. Taylor led King’s Fork with 12 and Parrett had 11.

Facing adversity is something you have to do in life, and life is about how you respond to it, Worrell said. He expressed his hope that his players would “respond in a good way and get off into college for those that are seniors and the underclassmen get back in the gym and get better.”

What he said he would remember most about this year was “just the determination defensively, how these guys got at it defensively and caused our offense to spark.”

It was the final stand for the core group of seniors — Parrett, Ralph, Smith, Taylor and White — that had played with one another for years.

“It’s a great group that believes in each other and believes in their coaching staff,” Worrell said.

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