KF wins on Rodgers’ senior night

Published 10:11 am Thursday, February 12, 2009

For virtually all of her senior campaign, TaShauna “Sugar” Rodgers has carried her King’s Fork High basketball teammates at crucial times. Tuesday, in the squad’s regular season finale, the other Bulldogs rose up alongside Rodgers and swept aside visiting Western Branch, clinching third place in the Southeastern District with a 59-52 victory.

The star was admittedly off her game on Senior Night, but finished with a game-high 20 points and 10 rebounds. Still, King’s Fork wouldn’t have won without significant contributions and hard-nosed play from the likes of Tamara Stone, Whitney Nichols and Simone Ricks. Those three combined for 22 points and 18 rebounds, Stone and Ricks making valuable contributions in the paint for the vertically-challenged hosts and Nichols driving the baseline and pursuing loose balls with impressive zeal.

“I had to go to my team,” said Rodgers, who had just six points at halftime on 3 of 13 field-goal shooting. “They’re starting to develop now that we’re later in the season.”

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Rodgers has worn a look of resigned fatigue, occasionally interspersed with indifference, for much of the winter. A college career at Georgetown awaits and it has sometimes seemed like the swing player’s mind is already in Washington, D.C., and on the Big East Conference. Every King’s Fork opponent has made her the center of its defensive game plan, something everyone in Hampton Roads knew was coming after she led the region in scoring last season.

“It frustrates me but I just think about what it’s like when you play at the rec center and everyone starts coming at you,” Rodgers said. “You do what you can and you go to the hole.”

Part of the problem in Tuesday’s first half was that Rodgers wasn’t driving inside. The Bruins sagged off her and Rodgers couldn’t make them pay. She took out her irritated contact lenses partway through the second quarter but still never seemed quite in sync. Murphy told her at halftime and in no uncertain terms that she needed to penetrate.

“Even if they backed off, she had to attack the cup,” he said.

King’s Fork (15-6, 13-5) has won the last two district regular season and tournament titles, but has no real inside game this season. That puts more pressure on Rodgers, but she responded in crunch time Tuesday and put up 10 points in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs led by two at halftime and trailed by one after three quarters but scored the final stanza’s first four points and trailed only once more in the game, at 46-44 with four minutes remaining.

From there, Rodgers sank her lone 3-point shot of the night, Stone hit 1 of 2 free throws and Ricks added an inside bucket for a 50-46 lead with three minutes to go. Western Branch used a 2-point goal and a free throw from Lauren Johnson and the third of Dominque Legette’s four treys to pull within 54-52 with minute on the clock. However, Rodgers sank 1 of 2 free throws and then a 2-point shot seconds after a Bruins turnover with 20 seconds left.

“We scouted them really well and knew to sag off and guard against the pick-and-roll,” said Murphy, who was unsure immediately after the contest of his team’s first-round opponent in next week’s district tournament and that game’s location. “On offense, we moved to open spots instead of just watching Sugar.”

Rodgers, leaning against a hallway wall after the game, chuckled when asked what it’s been like playing mother goose to a gaggle of goslings.

“I try to remember not to yell at them too much,” she joked. “They’re all still babies.”

Johnson and Legette each had 12 points for Western Branch (14-8, 12-6), which finished fourth in the district’s regular season.