Bulldogs go to big guy, now face BTW

Published 10:45 pm Friday, December 26, 2008

HAMPTON – With 10 straight points to close the third period, King’s Fork turned away a good challenge from Fairfax’s W.T. Woodson and went on to a 64-49 victory in the first round of the Ronald Curry Christmas Classic at Hampton University.

The Bulldogs (8-0, 6-0) will face Booker T. Washington on Saturday evening at 6 p.m. at Hampton’s Convocation Center in a rematch of last season’s Eastern Region Tournament quarterfinals.

King’s Fork and W.T. Woodson were tied 27-27 at halftime. By the end of the contest, four Bulldogs were in double-figure scoring led by Davante Gardner’s 16 points. Gardner scored 12 of his points after halftime as the 6-foot-8 junior’s size and shooting touch in the paint proved the main thing Fairfax’s Cavaliers had no answer for.

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Until late in the third period, the passing and outside shooting of W.T. Woodson provided problems for the undefeated Bulldogs.

“They passed the ball better than anyone we’ve seen this year,” said King’s Fork head coach Joshua Worrell.

“They move extremely well without the dribble in all of their half court stuff. That’s something we’re not used to,” said Worrell.

W.T. Woodson was paced by 6-foot-6 senior Stephen Stepka who scored 25 points. Despite his height, Stepka played more of a perimeter game.

When the Bulldogs played zone, Stepka and the Cavaliers hurt King’s Fork from beyond the arc. W.T. Woodson made 5-of-8 three-pointers in the first half with Stepka knocking down three of them.

When King’s Fork played more man-to-man, initially King’s Fork’s post players were unable to stop Stepka from driving with the dribble. After halftime, 6-foot-4 guard Jaquon Parker did a better job guarding Stepka and one dry spell by the Cavaliers was the turning point.

With the Bulldogs ahead 36-33, Gardner scored inside for his third basket of the quarter, then a steal by Jamar Wertz ended with Wertz putting back his own miss for a basket.

A timeout by the Cavaliers didn’t change the momentum and the Bulldogs scored six more points in the last two minutes, taking a 46-33 lead to the last period.

King’s Fork kept going inside, primarily to Gardner, and he scored two more baskets early in the fourth period.

Gardner’s scoring in the lane opened up other Bulldogs around the perimeter. Drawing four defenders around him, Gardner passed to the wing for Derek Wright where Wright nailed a three, giving King’s Fork a 58-42 margin. Wertz, who scored nine of his 15 points in the second half, also benefited from the attention Gardner drew.

Early on, W.T. Woodson’s shooting kept the Cavaliers toe-to-toe with the Bulldogs. Stepka scored seven points quickly, helping W.T. Woodson to an 11-6 lead three minutes into the game.

Offensive rebounding and Parker driving hard to the basket kept King’s Fork close as much of the first half was the Bulldogs scoring two points, but them giving up three to W.T. Woodson on the next trip down the court.

The Cavaliers hit three treys in the span of four possessions in the second period and led 23-21. King’s Fork’s defense started clamping down from there, allowing only four points in the last 4:17, but a tied game was the best the Bulldogs could get by halftime.

In the second half, the Cavaliers were 1-for-10 from three-point range. Mainly from the paint, and a few fast-break chances, the Bulldogs were 16-of-23 from the field in the second half.

Gardner finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. Wertz with 15, Parker with 14 and Jay Copeland with 10 made up the other top Bulldog scorers.