Bulldogs get set to defend state title

Published 2:59 pm Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NEWPORT NEWS – King’s Fork’s boys basketball team has a challenge ahead of it that not many teams ever have to deal with. As the defending state champions and coming off a 31-1 record, the Bulldogs should rightfully have confidence against any opponent, but, how much confidence would be overconfidence?

“We’ve talked about it since day one of tryouts. Last year is over. This is a totally different group, but the outcome can be special for this team, too,” said King’s Fork head coach Joshua Worrell.

Worrell’s been the Bulldog head coach for all six seasons the KF program’s been in existence. KF won zero games and two games in its first two seasons, starting in 2004-05. The Bulldogs jumped all the way to a spot in the regional tournament for the first time in year three. Year four ended in the state quarterfinals. Last season, the Bulldogs went all the way with a 49-47 win against William Fleming winning the state title.

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The Bulldogs are a different group this season, but for a state champion, they have a number of returning players. First and foremost, that starts in the paint with 6-foot-8 Davante Gardner and 6-foot-7 Jay Copeland.

“They can be leaders for us, but they’ve got to be leaders by example. They know the hard work it takes to get where we want to be, to do what needs to be done to win,” said Worrell.

The Bulldogs had their first live action on Tuesday night at Warwick. The Bulldogs and Raiders scrimmaged for six quarters. Much of the scrimmage was hectic and included too many turnovers from both squads.

Gardner led KF with 19 points and eight rebounds. Copeland had 11 points and 10 rebounds. No Bulldog player played more than about half of the scrimmage as Worrell rotated all 14 of his players evenly. KF will have another scrimmage on Saturday at Green Run. The Bulldogs open their title defense on Wednesday, Dec. 2 at Norcom.

On the perimeter, the Bulldogs have the most work to do to replace Jaquan Parker, who’s now playing at the University of Cincinnati, and Jamar Wertz, who’s playing at Maryland-Baltimore Co.

Worrell says his team is deep in the backcourt, but figuring out the best combinations could be a challenge that goes well into the season.

Guys who were role players a year ago, will be expected to step into bigger spots and be key late in games. On Tuesday, Alvin Daughtrey was the starting point guard with Derek Wright and Dominique Patterson on the wings.

Wright has the ability to play point guard, as he did so for much of last season once the expected starting point guard, RarKesh Harris, missed most of the season due to injury. Wright could be Worrell’s most consistent outside shooter. Wright hit a number of big three-pointers through the postseason, including a go-ahead trey, that proved to be the game-winning shot, with under a minute to go in the state final.

Dion Bivens, who’s transferred from Nansemond River where he was an all-district player last season, and Tre Francisco can provide more scoring ability.

“In about the third quarter tonight, guys started to worry about who was getting shots and that can’t happen,” said Worrell.

“You can tell everyone’s had only about a week of practice,” said Worrell.

Even as defending state champs, Worrell expects the long Southeastern District schedule to be a tough test, and one that requires his team’s best effort every night.

“Last year, we thought every team gave us a tough game, but this year, as state champs, it’s probably going to be even more so,” said Worrell.

There are positives out of being the top team in the state though.

“They know what it takes. They know we have to work hard to get back where we were. The competition in practice, I think that’s better now than it ever was last year,” said Worrell.