KF rallies from 15 down to beat Lady Cavs

Published 8:59 pm Wednesday, February 4, 2009

For a little more than 12 minutes Tuesday, the Lakeland High girls basketball team could do no wrong against city rival King’s Fork. After that, however, the visiting Cavaliers could do little right, suffering a major collapse en route to a 63-42 loss in the teams’ Southeastern District game.

Lakeland, which has never beaten the Bulldogs in girls basketball since King’s Fork opened five years ago, held a 24-9 lead over the two-time defending district champions with four minutes remaining in the first half. The Cavaliers hit 6 of 11 field goals and committed just two turnovers in the first quarter, after which they led 14-2.

But something changed and it did so in a hurry. King’s Fork scored the half’s final 11 points and trailed only 24-20 at intermission. Perhaps the momentum swing began when Lakeland standout Terika Lunsford was pulled for a minute after picking up her second foul. But whatever caused it, the shift had a seismic effect.

Email newsletter signup

“We started making bad decisions with our passes and turned the ball over too much,” said Cavalier coach Alan Jones, whose club committed 31 turnovers in the final three quarters. “But at the start, we were playing as well as I’ve seen us play against King’s Fork in my two years here.”

Predictably, the Bulldogs’ charge coincided with their star swing player heating up. TaShauna “Sugar” Rodgers had only five points after 12 minutes but scored six more before halftime and then poured in 10 during the third quarter’s last five minutes. King’s Fork led 43-34 after that stanza, aided significantly by Lakeland’s 10 turnovers in the period.

“Sugar started off a little nonchalant but then she had a challenge in front of her and she rose to it,” said Bulldog coach Garry Murphy of his top player, who finished with 27 points, 15 rebounds, eight steals and four assists. Teammate Whitney Nichols added a career-high 13 points.

King’s Fork’s players showed no signs of panic and few of frustration when they fell behind early. Murphy, a vocal and sometimes critical coach, said he dialed down his intensity so the Bulldogs (13-6, 11-5) wouldn’t tighten up.

“I’m usually pretty headstrong, but I told them it was time for us all to mature,” Murphy said. “I told them not to force it and not to try and get the lead back all at once.”

As for how that lead was fumbled away, Jones had no answers.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “We just got in one of those spells and couldn’t recover.”

Lunsford led Lakeland (5-13, 4-12) with 15 points while Kaylyn Chatman and Ashley Johnson each had 10.