KF cruises to regional title
Published 11:53 pm Wednesday, March 4, 2009
King’s Fork won its first regional basketball championship in the school’s five-year history on Wednesday, leading from wire to wire against Booker T. Washington for a 77-63 victory.
The Bulldogs, with a team nearly full of returning players from a season ago, remembered coming up short in last year’s Eastern Region final against Bethel.
“This means a lot. We’d been in this situation before…all the kids played with fight and desire tonight,” said KF head coach Joshua Worrell.
Email newsletter signup
That included senior Jaquon Parker. KF’s leading scorer didn’t practice Tuesday because of illness and was on the bench for part of the third period holding a plastic trash bag.
Despite that, when Parker was in, he played his usual aggressive, physical game and poured in 19 points along with seven rebounds and three steals.
It included junior center Davante Gardner, who missed last year’s regional tournament, and most of last season, because of injury. Gardner was a huge force in the paint and used a soft touch at the line. The 6 foot 8, 300-pound junior had 25 points, nine rebounds and made 9 of 10 free throws.
And it included senior Jamar Wertz, who’s a four-year letterwinner for Worrell and the Bulldogs. After scoring three points in the first half, with Parker on the bench, Wertz took up the scoring load to finish with 21 points and 8 of 8 foul-shooting.
“Davante’s six-eight and, I don’t know, 350 pounds,” said Wertz. “No one’s going to stop him.
“That was our gameplan. Davante’s big and (Booker T. Washington) didn’t have anyone over six-five. It was a mismatch and we wanted to take advantage of it,” said Wertz.
The Bulldogs fed Gardner early and often. Eight points by Gardner in the opening period, all from short range in the paint, led KF to a 18-9 lead after a quarter.
KF’s other big post player, 6 foot 6 junior Jay Copeland, scored back-to-back buckets early in the second period to stretch KF’s lead back to 22-13.
KF held the Bookers with 1 for 11 three-point shooting and 6 for 27 field-goal shooting (22.2 percent) in the first half. Behind 10 points from Gardner and eight points and 10 boards by Copeland, KF led 33-23 at the half.
Parker had 10 points at the half and his ill feelings weren’t apparent until he had to go to the bench shortly into the third period.
Wertz answered the challenge by scoring 12 of KF’s first 17 points in the half. A three by Wertz gave KF a dominating lead, 50-30, with 3:05 left. Wertz and Gardner combined for all 19 third-quarter Bulldog points.
The only remaining challenge the Bulldogs had to overcome was foul trouble. At the end of the third period, Copeland had four fouls and Gardner had three.
Parker had enough left to play most of the final 11 minutes of the game. Midway through the final period, Parker broke the Booker pressing defense and drove for a dunk. A few seconds later, Parker stole a Booker pass near midcourt and drove in for another right-handed flush to give KF a 62-45 cushion with 4:16 left.
Parker’s two dunks sent most of the sellout crowd at Churchland High for the exits. Thirteen points was the closest the Bookers got the rest of the way. Back-to-back baskets in the paint by Gardner, with the second coming with just over two minutes left, capped his scoring and sealed the outcome.
Gardner and Wertz combined to make 15 of 16 foul shots in the second half. KF was 27 of 36 (75.0 percent) at the line overall.
For the ultimate goal, there are still three steps remaining. The Bulldogs (28-1) clinched a practical home game for the first round of the eight-team VHSL Group AAA State Tournament. King’s Fork will meet the Northwest Region runner-up, George Washington-Danville, on Saturday at 3:45 p.m. at Churchland.