Bulldogs survive stalling foe again

Published 11:33 pm Friday, February 13, 2009

Throughout 18 undefeated games against Southeastern District opponents this season, most of the serious challenges King’s Fork has faced have come against teams playing a slow, patient game.

No. 8-seeded Hickory used that blueprint and were within four points of the top-seeded Bulldogs with seven minutes to go on Friday night in the Southeastern District Tournament quarterfinals.

King’s Fork flexed its muscle inside, through junior post players Jay Copeland and Davante Gardner, and outscored the Hawks 15-6 in the last seven minutes to advance to Wednesday’s semifinals with a 56-43 victory.


Email newsletter signup

Copeland scored 17 points to lead the Bulldogs, he also tallied seven rebounds and four blocks. Gardner scored all nine of his points in the second half.

Hickory’s gameplan was clear from the opening tip. Five minutes into the game, Hickory had condensed the game down to four possessions for each side and the Hawks led 6-3. The first period ended with a 6-5 Hickory lead and King’s Fork’s home fans murmuring about what was going on throughout the break between quarters.

The game was still going at Hickory’s pace as the score was 8-8 at the 4:36 mark of the half. A 3 for 3 trip to the line by Jamar Wertz started a 16-0 Bulldog run in a span of 3:52.

The Bulldogs started double-teaming Hickory’s guards as they attempted to stall. Dunks by Copeland and Parker as well as a steal, break and three-point play by Wertz energized the run.

With a 24-11 lead at the half, it seemed the Bulldogs might have taken Hickory out of its plan.

Instead, Hickory adjusted to King’s Fork’s pressing defense in the locker room and attacked it repeatedly through the third period.

Hickory center Logan Miller scored three lay-ups as the Hawks opened the half with a 9-3 run.

A three-pointer by Wertz gave KF a 31-23 lead at the 4:30 mark of the period and a three-point play by Gardner, with the field goal being a fade-away, one-handed toss from 12 feet out as his other arm was being held down by a Hawk, at the 3:11 mark put KF up 36-25.

Nevertheless, Hickory scored 22 points in the third period and was still in the game, down 40-33, going to the fourth period. The Hawks continued finding open shots and another hoop by Miller made it 41-37 with 7:12 remaining in the game.

Four points was as close as Hickory got, but it still wasn’t an easy finish for the Bulldogs.

Baskets by Gardner and Copeland stretched KF’s lead to 45-37. Another three-pointer by Wertz put KF up 50-41 with 3:39 left. The Bulldogs made only 3 of 14 three-pointers on the night, but the two by Wertz in the second half came at important times.

Miller led Hickory with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Miller grabbed 11 of Hickory’s 19 total rebounds.

Copeland’s 17 points led the Bulldogs. Wertz added 14 points. Jaquon Parker and Gardner had nine points each. King’s Fork committed only seven turnovers, with two turnovers in the second half.

The Bulldogs (22-1) will host the tournament semifinals on Wednesday evening.