Bulldogs’ spectacular season a team effort

Published 10:08 pm Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Through King’s Fork’s three state basketball tournament victories, there was one memorable moment after another, and I was just sitting down on the baseline watching.

For any championship team, there are great plays, just speaking about the athletic ability and talent, which are memorable highlights.

More lasting, though, are not brief bursts of dunks and three-point shots but the ways the Bulldogs found to advance from game to game. Hopefully, the fans, and reporters, who followed King’s Fork through most or parts of this season will also remember the unique lessons sports can capture in ways vivid enough and simple enough for us to grasp.

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Any student, parent, teacher, coach or fan of King’s Fork knows the history of the school and the boys basketball program, so for the sake of the length of this column I’ll try to stick just to the journey of the last few weeks.

First, a championship-level performance isn’t always pretty. Although, as was obvious by the actions and words from coach Joshua Worrell and his players late Friday night after the Bulldogs had come back from 19 points down early in the second half for a 49-47 win, that it wasn’t a pretty win made it more of a crowning achievement.

Going back to the semifinals of the Eastern Region Tournament, when a loss would’ve meant the end of King’s Fork’s season, Hampton forced the Bulldogs into a game every bit as ugly as the first 18 minutes of Friday’s title game.

Both teams shot less than 30 percent from the field. King’s Fork won 39-36 in a game with more fouls and far more turnovers than there were field goals.

Going back into January, city rival Lakeland pushed the Bulldogs into double overtime in a tremendously hard-fought game. Even with eight extra minutes, with a stalling gameplan by the Cavaliers, who usually played this season going 100 miles per hour, the Bulldogs did enough for a 57-52 win.

In none of those three games did KF’s four star players, Jaquon Parker, Jamar Wertz, Jay Copeland and Davante Gardner score their usual averages. For players with well-deserved college-level aspirations, sometimes stats and how a game looks can become too important. Is the team winning or my 25 points more important?

Still, against Lakeland, Hampton, GW-Danville and William Fleming, and in other games too, but these four were the most obvious, the Bulldogs were willing to do what needed to be done.

The other lesson, specifically from the two games in Richmond, is the stuff of so many corny sports movies.

A.J. Daughtrey sparked the Bulldogs in the second half with defense, quickness and hustle.

“At the end of the game, I said to A.J., ‘Thank you for trusting me,’” said Worrell.

“In the last four games, I’d played him maybe 30 seconds.”

Derek Wright’s three-point shots in the second half got the Bulldogs up off the mat, then Wright made the shot which Bulldog fans will remember as the game-winning shot.

Stephen Riddick saved the Bulldogs in the semifinal win over previously-No. 1 Petersburg. Six-foot-1 Dominique Patterson was needed as a sub in the post for long stretches of the Petersburg game because of foul trouble for Gardner and Copeland.

Chris Hearn scored six points in the second half of the final. Normally, six points in a basketball game isn’t a big deal, but six points after your team has nine in the first half are giant.

The contributions these “role players” made weren’t corny in the least because the Bulldogs desperately needed every one.