KF boys reach tourney final

Published 10:04 pm Saturday, December 27, 2008

HAMPTON – Davante Gardner carried King’s Fork for the second straight night and the Bulldogs hung on after Booker T. Washington tied the score late in the game, advancing to the title game of the Ronald Curry Christmas Classic with a 60-55 win.

The 6-foot-8 Gardner was too big in the low post for the Bookers, scoring 26 points and being the go-to player for King’s Fork each time the Bulldogs needed a basket.

Through the past few outings for the undefeated Bulldogs, the team has survived despite some hurdles. Saturday night’s contest was the same way as the team’s top scorer, senior swingman Jaquon Parker, was held to two points by the Bookers.

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Gardner, along with Jamar Wertz who had 14 points and Derek Wright who added 12 points, made up the scoring slack.

In Friday night’s first round win over Fairfax’s W.T. Woodson, King’s Fork fed Gardner throughout the second half and pulled away in the third period.

King’s Fork went to Gardner early and often against the Bookers. Gardner scored six points, on three baskets in the post, and Wright knocked down two three-pointers to spark the Bulldogs out to a 14-7 lead 4:50 into the game. By the end of the first period, Gardner had 10 points and King’s Fork led 21-12.

King’s Fork’s control on the game evaporated as the Bookers ground the game down to slow pace.

The Bookers’ main offensive plan came from beyond the arc. BTW was 7-for-23 on the night from three-point range led by four threes from Marese Phelps. Phelps’ third three of the first half made it 27-27 with 1:10 left in the half.

Gardner scored the last two field goals of the half for KF, giving him 16 points at the half, and giving KF a 31-29 lead.

The Bookers kept the game a nervous one for the Bulldogs throughout the second half.

With more than six minutes left in the third period, Gardner was forced to the bench after his third foul.

With KF up by two when Gardner left, the Bulldogs managed to remain ahead, 38-34, when Gardner returned three minutes later.

The first two Bulldog possessions after the 6-foot-8 junior’s return, KF went to Gardner on the low block and he scored both times, including a three-point play, stretching KF’s lead to 43-34. KF led 46-36 going to the fourth period.

After back-to-back range jumpers by Wertz gave KF a 50-40 lead with five minutes left, the Bookers chipped away at the KF lead again.

Parker’s tough night was exemplified down the stretch. With KF up 53-48, a steal and breakaway by Parker ended in a missed lay-up. On BTW’s ensuing possession, Desmond Lee made two free throws.

On KF’s next trip, Parker was trapped near midcourt, slipped and lost the ball, and the Bookers converted on the breakway, making it 53-52 KF nearing two minutes left.

So the Bulldogs went back to Gardner down low. He powered his way for a basket on the right block.

Phelps drained his only three-pointer of the second half, tying the game 55-55 with 1:50 left.

After a timeout, KF patiently took care of the ball before passing to Gardner in the post, he turned and scored over a Booker defender. KF led 57-55 with 1:10 and counting.

KF’s key defensive stop was a charge against Lee, drawn by Stephen Riddick, returning the ball to KF with 0:40 left. Chris Hearn made two free throws with 22 seconds left and BTW couldn’t score the rest of the way.

Despite his off night, Parker still contributed with six rebounds, five assists and four steals. KF made 23 of 47 (48.9 percent) field goals and 10 of 19 free throws (52.6 percent).

The Bookers were led by Phelps with 16 points and Lee with 15 points.

King’s Fork (9-0) will play in the championship game of the first annual tournament on Monday at 8 p.m. at Hampton University’s Convocation Center.