Bulldogs trail late before advancing

Published 11:20 pm Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Touted before the season as a state title contender, the King’s Fork High boys basketball team had to hustle just to reach the Southeastern District tournament title game Wednesday night. The Bulldogs pushed past scrappy Great Bridge, 68-57, but looked nothing like one of the Old Dominion’s better squads.

“For us to go where our guys say they want to go, we can’t continue to play like this,” said Bulldogs coach Joshua Worrell, whose team advanced to Friday’s tournament title game against city rival Lakeland.

“We know we automatically have a (regional tournament) game on Monday, but at that point it’s one-and-done and if you’re not playing well going into that game, you’re in trouble.”

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To say King’s Fork didn’t play well during Wednesday’s first half would be an understatement. The Bulldogs made 3 of 10 free throws, 8 of 20 field goal attempts and committed nine turnovers. Standout guard Jaquon Parker was 1 of 6 from the field and 1 of 7 from the charity stripe before halftime mercifully arrived with a 20-20 score.

Parker, a senior who Worrell said will attend a prep school to be determined next season, finished with 14 points but never looked comfortable. Neither did backcourt mate Jamar Wertz, who also had 14 points but was 2 of 5 on free throws.

What eventually turned the tide was Great Bridge’s inability to contain mammoth center Davante Gardner, who put in 19 points, 13 in the second half. Wildcat post players, Shane Popelka, Glen Polo and Brian Jordan, were game but not successful, although their team managed another tie after three quarters, at 43-43.

“We weren’t going to Davante at the beginning when he was open,” Worrell said. “Then the guys got sick of me telling them about it and started throwing it to him even when he had two guys on him. For the second half, I told them that on every possession the ball had to be touched inside but not put into traffic.”

Great Bridge led 50-47 nearly two minutes into the fourth quarter but King’s Fork embarked on a 16-0 run in the next four minutes, with Gardner scoring nine of those points.

The Wildcats were led by guard Briante Weber, who had 23 points. Carvin Powell, who has signed to play football at Old Dominion beginning next fall, played excellent defense on Parker throughout the night.

“We didn’t have a very good or consistent performance tonight,” Worrell said. “We didn’t have much life early and we let them get buckets the way they wanted to get them. The whole idea is to dictate our style of play to other teams and that’s a plan we can’t afford not to follow.”