KF routs Oscar Smith in second half

Published 9:47 pm Wednesday, December 10, 2008

If you’ve ever experienced the jerky starts, grinding gear shifts and sudden stops that go with learning to drive a stick-shift automobile, then you have a sense of how the King’s Fork High girls basketball team performed Tuesday. The Bulldogs thumped visiting Oscar Smith 86-56 in a Southeastern District game, but their play wasn’t exactly smooth.

Star swing player TaShauna “Sugar” Rodgers didn’t participate in the first quarter, punishment for an unexcused practice absence. It was the latest of several such benchings over the last two seasons and King’s Fork trailed 19-13 after eight minutes.

Rodgers scored 14 of the Bulldogs’ 21 second-quarter points and the hosts led 35-30 at halftime. The senior then poured in 12 of her squad’s 18 points in the third quarter and finished with 31 as the rout was on. King’s Fork improved to 2-1 in both overall and district play but appeared out of sync much of the game.

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“We depend on Sugar so much, and her sitting out at the start left us in disarray,” said Bulldogs coach Garry Murphy. “Our biggest concern coming into the season was finding good chemistry on the floor.”

Rodgers, who led South Hampton Roads in scoring last season with a 22-points per game average, makes King’s Fork a different team when she enters the lineup. But once on the floor Tuesday, she didn’t fully include her teammates in the attack. It wasn’t so much selfishness as an uncertainty as to what would happen once she shared the ball.

“As with all relationships, it’s a matter of trust,” Murphy said, adding that Rodgers must accept that her teammates need to make mistakes with the ball to learn how to best play with it. “But you can understand her frustration, being as advanced as she is.”

Even when Rodgers and her teammates pull together more tightly, King’s Fork will still have no one over 6 feet. Oscar Smith pounded the ball inside and doubtless every opponent will try to do the same. The Tigers are a poor shooting team so far this season, but King’s Fork can’t count on that every night.

“The only way we can stop teams taking advantage of us inside is to play really aggressive and smart help-side defense,” Murphy said. “We also have to treat every one of our possessions like gold and limit turnovers so we’re not on defense as much. I understand we’re not going to hit every shot but the shots we take have to be smart shots.”

King’s Fork committed 20 turnovers, converted 18 of 31 free throws and made 30 of 71 field goals (42 percent) Tuesday. Oscar Smith let the Bulldogs off the hook by committing 19 turnovers, hitting 17 of 35 free throws and making only 19 of 55 field goals (35 percent).

Murphy said he’s doing his best to get his team to play without feeling pressure. The program has won the last two district regular season and tournament titles and Rodgers is a two-time district player of the year.

“I told them before the season that they were going to hear a lot about being under pressure because they’re the two-time defending champs,” Murphy said. “But that’s not true. This is a different team and it’s not defending anything. It’s building something of its own.”

Tamara Stone and Erica Jefferson each had 12 points for King’s Fork. Oscar Smith (1-1, 1-1) was led by Kanisha Johnson, who scored 18 points.