Sports year-in-review

Published 5:12 pm Saturday, December 26, 2009

Five-year-old King’s Fork, led by the same coach and some of the same players who endured a 2-42 record in the program’s first two seasons, won Suffolk’s first high school state basketball championship since 1995.

The Bulldogs trailed 28-9 two minutes into the third quarter in the state final against Roanoke’s William Fleming, but outscored William Fleming 40-19 the rest of the way for a 49-47 win.

The Bulldogs were led by senior guards Jaquan Parker and Jamar Wertz and junior post players Davante Gardner and Jay Copeland. Parker is now playing for the University of Cincinnati and Wertz is playing at Maryland-Baltimore Co.

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In the final seconds of the state title game though, junior guard Derek Wright made his third three-pointer of the second half to put KF up 46-43.

The state title victory wasn’t the only drama along the way as KF finished with a 31-1 record.

The Bulldogs nearly came up one game short of the state tournament. The Bulldogs shot 25 percent from the field, but escaped with a 39-36 win over Hampton in the regional semifinals.

In the state quarterfinals, George Washington-Danville led the Bulldogs 51-42 going to the fourth quarter. King’s Fork outscored GW-Danville 18-2 in the fourth quarter to survive and advance.

In the state semifinals, King’s Fork faced then-No. 1 Petersburg, only a short drive from Petersburg in Richmond’s Siegel Center. In front of a crowd of 7,500, the Bulldogs gave Petersburg its only loss of the season, 73-67. Parker led KF with 24 points. Copeland and Gardner combined for 33 points and 21 rebounds.

Parker won Group AAA Player of the Year honors and Worrell was Group AAA Coach of the Year.

On Feb. 28, Nansemond River’s James Taylor became the first athlete in Virginia High School League history to win four state championships at the same indoor track state championship meet.

Taylor, who’s now in his first year at Norfolk State, won the long jump, 55-meter dash, 300 and 500 in a span of two hours, 59 minutes.

After winning his fourth state title in the 300 meters, Taylor was congratulated by Olympic gold medalist and Portsmouth native LaShawn Merritt. Merritt won three state titles in the same indoor meet while at Wilson, but never four.

Throughout the afternoon, Merritt spoke with Taylor along each step of the four events.

“He said to stay focused, to pitch forward and to run my race. He said not to worry about anyone else,” said Taylor.

“Mentally, I knew I had it. Physically, I was questioning my training. Am I really able to do this?” Taylor said.

“It’s by the grace of God I pulled this together,” Taylor said.

Under first-year head coach Kevin Allen, Nansemond-Suffolk won its first football state championship since 2000. NSA upset top-ranked Blue Ridge on the Barons’ own field on Nov. 21 in the Virginia Independent School Div. II final.

The season was anything but an easy ride for the Saints though. NSA’s season-opener was a 28-0 loss at Windsor. Three weeks later, the Saints lost to Bishop Sullivan, a conference foe the Saints have traditionally dominated. NSA rebounded with a critical win at Portsmouth Christian and a blowout over rival Norfolk Academy.

In the championship game, the Saint defense played virtually a perfect game in a 17-0 victory. The Saints pressured Blue Ridge’s passing game from the start. In the second half, Ryan Serianni’s 70-yard fumble return for a touchdown gave NSA a 10-0 lead and the Saints intercepted Blue Ridge five times.

Domonique Lennon, who entered Nansemond-Suffolk over the summer and joined the team only a few days before the start of the regular season, was an all-state quarterback and defensive back.

Will Crenshaw rushed for nearly 1,500 yards on the season and was the Tidewater Conference Player of the Year.

After nine straight seasons that had ended in the Eastern Region Tournament, Lakeland’s field hockey team reached the VHSL State Tournament for the first time in program history in November.

The Lady Cavaliers, following their 10th straight regular season title in the Southeastern District and ninth straight district tournament title, all under head coach Tara Worley, Lakeland defeated Kecoughtan 2-0 in the regional semifinals to clinch a berth in the state tournament.

Lakeland prevailed over Central Region champion Thomas Dale, and an ugly, bumpy pitch in Richmond, 2-0 in the state quarterfinals. Lakeland’s season came to a close in the state semifinals against Mountain View.

Lakeland finished 20-3 overall. In the SED season and tourney, Lakeland was 11-0 with a total scoring margin of 83-2.

Seven of Lakeland’s usual starting 11 were underclassmen this season, including first-team all-state players Kelsey Smither and Kendell Combs.

It takes a great regular season game to make a “best of the year” list, but two boys basketball games qualified in 2009.

On Jan. 6 at King’s Fork, city rival Lakeland gave the Bulldogs what proved to be one of their biggest scares of their state-championship run. Despite 33 points by 5-foot-8 David Barnes, King’s Fork outlasted Lakeland 57-52 in double overtime.

Two nights later, at Lakeland, the Cavaliers and Nansemond River battled for four overtimes before Lakeland won 97-93. Barnes scored 38 against the Warriors.

Nansemond-Suffolk freshman Gabrielle Bishop set the Virginia Independent School state record in the 50-meter freestyle final at the VIS Swimming Championship in Manassas in February. Bishop won the state title and Tidewater Conference title in the 50 and 100 freestyle events.

Bishop’s season, which is really a year-round season, also included numerous national-level meets against the most elite junior competition.

TaShauna “Sugar” Rodgers finished her King’s Fork basketball career in February as the all-time leading scorer in school history. Rodgers’ mark, 2,274 points in her four varsity seasons, is likely to stand for many Lady Bulldog seasons to come.

Rodgers was one of 24 high school players in the nation to be named to the McDonald’s All-American Game in Miami.

Rodgers is now playing, and already starring, for Georgetown. Rodgers has been rookie of the week in the Big East and is averaging more than 18 points per game for the Lady Hoyas early in the 2009-10 season.

King’s Fork’s Allen Kelly won his second pole-vaulting state championship in the 2009 VHSL Indoor Championships.

Kelly’s top vault as a Bulldog, a mark of 15-foot-8, came in Jan. ’09 in an invitational meet in Reno, Nev. Kelly finished the indoor season ranked No. 13 in the nation among high school pole vaulters.

Kelly is currently in his first year at Virginia Military Institute.

Due to multiple rainouts, Nansemond-Suffolk’s baseball squad won the Tidewater Conference Tournament after conference rival Greenbrier Christian had already won the VIS state championship.

Cape Henry upset Greenbrier Christian in the TCIS semifinals. The Saints then beat the Dolphins 5-4 in the championship game.

Senior Mike Coburn pitched a complete game for NSA in the final. Centerfielder Isaac Ballou, thanks largely to a two-run homer in the fifth inning against Cape Henry, was named Tournament MVP. NSA’s last TCIS title had been in 2003. Ballou is currently at Marshall on a baseball scholarship.

Cedar Point Country Club in North Suffolk hosted the 96th VSGA (Virginia State Golf Association) Amateur Championship in late June.

Virginia Beach’s Brinson Paolini, 18, defeated friend Lanto Griffin, 21, in the 36-hole final match. Paolini rallied from five holes down with nine to play to win 2-up. Paolini shot six-under par 30 on the final nine.

Paolini is the youngest player to win back-to-back state amateur championships. Griffin, a student at Virginia Commonwealth, bunked with the Paolini family during the tournament.

Paolini, an ’09 grad of Cox High School, is now attending and playing golf at Duke.

King’s Fork senior linebacker/running back Dominique Patterson committed to a football scholarship offer from Virginia Tech in July.

“I had always said, ‘if Tech offered, I wouldn’t put anyone above them,’” said Patterson.

The Hokies had been interested in Patterson since his sophomore season. This past summer, Patterson attended a one-day camp for recruits in Blacksburg. At the end of the camp, Patterson was invited into Frank Beamer’s office, where the Hokie head coach informed Patterson of the offer.

King’s Fork alum and current Virginia Tech track standout Keith Ricks competed for the U.S. in the Pan American Junior Athletic Championships in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago in August.

Ricks qualified for the Pan American Juniors by placing second in the 200-meter dash at the U.S. Junior Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. earlier in the summer.

Ricks and other members of the U.S. team met the president of Trinidad and Tobago, George Maxwell Richards, in their hotel. On the track, Ricks finished third in his heat in the 200 (21.49 seconds) and missed out on the finals by 0.07-second.

“It was a great experience and completely different from any meet I’ve run in before,” Ricks said.

Nansemond River’s cheerleading team reached the Eastern Region Championships for the first time in school history and went one step beyond that by reaching the VHSL State Championships.

“This means so much. We’ve worked so hard for this, for me, since I was a freshman, to get to states. That we finally did it, it’s just a great accomplishment,” said senior team captain Stephanie Polensky.

The Warriors finished second in the Southeastern District and fourth in the Eastern Region.

Lakeland’s football team finished with a 6-4 record for its first winning season since 2001. The Cavaliers had a 6-2 record and a good shot at making the Group AAA, Div. 5 playoffs after a 20-0 win at Deep Creek. Lakeland’s victories included big wins, by Lakeland’s historic standards, over Western Branch and Indian River.

Losses in the last two weeks of the season, against King’s Fork and Grassfield, left the Cavaliers out of the postseason.

Craig Woodus (offensive tackle and defensive line), Cedric Johnson (running back), Justin Howell (linebacker) and Donavan Wright (defensive back) were All-Southeastern District players.