State champs drop opening game

Published 12:56 pm Thursday, December 3, 2009

Following a scrimmage last week at Warwick, King’s Fork’s head boys basketball coach Joshua Worrell said each season is a completely different challenge, even as the defending state champions.

That message should be loud and clear to his Bulldogs after opening their season on Wednesday night and suffering a 50-45 loss at Norcom.

The Bulldogs managed no more than 13 points in any of the four periods and poor outside shooting was the biggest issue. King’s Fork made 4-of-20 (20.0 percent) three-point shots and the Bulldog guards managed only six points combined.

Senior center Davante Gardner was the only steady source of offense. Gardner scored KF’s first 11 points of the game, including three three-point plays in the lane. Gardner finished with 23 points and eight rebounds.

“It was not what I wanted,” said Worrell about the number of three-point shots.

“We talked at halftime, then we started the second half and we forced three-pointers on three of our first four possessions,” said Worrell.

Norcom didn’t have the same problem in its season opening game. The Greyhounds made 8-of-21 three-pointers, led by James Theus hitting five treys and scoring 17 points in all.

King’s Fork led by five on a few occasions through the first three quarters of action, but there never was a big run to take the lead out to a comfortable margin.

With Gardner dominating in the first few minutes, KF got out to an 8-3 lead, only for Norcom to come back, with three three-point baskets in the first period, for a 13-13 tie after a quarter.

Fred Scott hit KF’s only three-pointer of the first half to give KF an 18-13 margin with just under four minutes left in the half. One of KF’s few fast break chances of the game ended with Derek Wright making a lay-up to make it 22-17 KF. Norcom rallied in the last 90 seconds of the half to make it 24-24 at the break.

A three-pointer by Wright made it 31-26 KF four minutes into the third period, but Norcom answered with an 8-0 run.

With one second left in the quarter, Gardner caught an inbound pass on the left wing and hit a turn-around, rainbow three-pointer. The 34-34 tie going to the fourth period was the last time the Bulldogs were tied or leading.

KF still had its chances to come from behind in the last minute. With the score standing at 48-45, King’s Fork forced a Norcom turnover, then the Greyhounds had three straight trips to the foul line go for nothing on first shots of one-and-ones.

One KF chance to cut the lead to one or tie the game went by the boards with Gardner walking in the paint. Jay Copeland missed a short jumper in the paint next time down. A patient Bulldog possession resulted only in a well-guarded three-point attempt by Tre Francisco and Scott missed the front end of a one-and-one with 0:10 left. Norcom finally converted two free throws to seal the win.

“We settled for too many threes and our bigs have to work to get better,” said Worrell.

“We have to create our own identity. We’re a new team and our identity has to be totally different,” said Worrell.

King’s Fork (0-1) gets into Southeastern District play on Friday evening, traveling to Grassfield.