KF coach looks down the road

Published 11:43 am Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Garry Murphy conducted an experiment Tuesday when his King’s Fork High girls basketball team hosted Grassfield in a Southeastern District game.

The coach started a lineup that featured two reserves and no TaShauna “Sugar” Rodgers, the Bulldogs’ star swing player. Murphy substituted liberally throughout his team’s 79-60 victory, forcing his charges to adapt to a fluid cast around them.

“The first quarter substitutions were all scripted, regardless of the score,” said Murphy, who watched his troops overcome a six-point deficit en route to a 16-15 lead after eight minutes.

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“When a game later in the season is on the line and we have people in foul trouble, I have to know what I can get from every kid.”

As expected, Murphy got a rout against one of the district’s weaker teams. But partly because of his mix-and-match lineups, Grassfield led as late as the second quarter’s third minute and was down only 39-32 at halftime. King’s Fork went on a 14-2 run in the third quarter and led 62-43 at the end of the stanza.

“We didn’t want to have to play from behind but we had trouble getting ahead,” Murphy said. “But it turned out pretty well, because we got some kids some minutes in pressure situations.”

With three games last week and three more this week, Murphy’s strategy was also about getting his starters some rest. The Bulldogs are 9-3 overall and 7-2 in the district and despite losses to Indian River and Western Branch, the two-time defending champions aren’t conceding that they won’t win a third.

“The girls know there’s still a chance to win this thing, even if we’re on the outside and looking in,” Murphy said. “At least tonight we played with some desperation.”

Rodgers finished with 28 points, 14 in each half, and added 10 rebounds and six assists. Whitney Nickols had 13 points and Erica Jefferson had 12 for King’s Fork, which next plays Thursday at Nansemond River.

Brandy McLeod led Grassfield (6-7, 3-7) with 15 points. The Grizzlies, who feature only one senior, committed 32 turnovers. The Bulldogs turned the ball over 23 times.

At halftime, a presentation was made to former King’s Fork point guard Ransheda Jennings, who now plays at Chowan University.

King’s Fork unveiled a banner with Jennings’ No. 33 and her high school career scoring total – 1,283. Jennings, a 2008 King’s Fork graduate, was accompanied to the game by her Chowan teammates and also received a plaque-sized replica of the banner.