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Big night in The Kennel

Thursday night was a big night at King’s Fork High School for a number of reasons. First and foremost, city rival Nansemond River was paying the Bulldogs a visit.

Led by Davante Gardner’s 25 points and 20 rebounds, King’s Fork prevailed over the Warriors for the second time this season, 86-68. King’s Fork (15-2, 13-0) remains one game ahead of Great Bridge atop the Southeastern District.

A couple special visitors to The Kennel made the night unique even among other Suffolk basketball rivalry games.

Virginia Tech’s head football coach, Frank Beamer, was on hand after spending the day on recruiting business around the region. Beamer was there to see KF’s Dominique Patterson, even if it was in a different sport. Patterson, a linebacker and running back on the gridiron, verbally committed to the Hokies over the summer and is expected to officially sign soon.

From the basketball recruiting trail, an assistant coach from Louisiana State University was on hand specifically to see Gardner. Presumably, the 6-foot-8 senior’s performance didn’t disappoint.

The Bulldogs opened the contest with the sound strategy of feeding the ball inside to Gardner as NR’s tallest starter is six inches shorter than Gardner.

Gardner scored seven points in the first four minutes and KF jumped out to a 14-6 lead.

The Warriors showed spirit fitting the city rivalry throughout the night. With a Brian Clarke three-pointer and tip-in bucket by NR’s 6-foot-2 center, Morris Johnson, NR cut KF’s lead to 14-13.

Reserves Ny’kee White and Curtis Roberts sparked KF late in the first period. White and Roberts scored two buckets each to make up KF’s last eight points of the period and KF led 24-19 after a quarter.

KF’s other senior big man, 6-foot-7 Jay Copeland, led the Bulldogs on a 12-0 run in the first 2:35 of the second period. Copeland came up with a steal and a breakaway, two-handed dunk, then scored on a move in the paint for the last four points of the rally and a 36-19 KF lead.

NR stopped the streak, but the Bulldogs continued pulling away. The Warriors asked for a timeout trailing 41-22 with 3:43 remaining in the half and when an official asked NR head coach Ed Young if he wanted a 30-second or full timeout, Young said, “Give me 10 minutes.”

On KF’s first possession after the timeout, Derek Wright drained a three-pointer to give KF its biggest lead of the night, 44-22. The Bulldogs took a 50-31 lead to the break.

King’s Fork shot 55.6 percent (20-for-36) from the field in the half and made 72.7 percent (16-for-22) of its two-point shots. Gardner led the way with 14 points.

The Warriors fought part of the way back a couple times in the second half. NR’s biggest run was a 13-1 streak in the first three minutes of the third quarter. Ashton Moore hit two three-pointers and scored nine points in all in the run.

Sloppiness by the Bulldogs helped NR’s run as well though. After committing only four turnovers in the first half, KF had six turnovers in the first 2:10 of the second half.

“I had just told them in the locker room, we were doing a good job with turnovers and with being patient coming up the floor,” said KF head coach Joshua Worrell.

“When we wait and if I can find out, or our guys on the floor can find out, what their defense is, there’s a good chance we will execute and score. When we rush up the floor when there’s nothing there, it causes us to rush our whole offense,” Worrell said.

The Bulldogs rebuilt a 68-49 lead by the end of the third period and held at least a 12-point margin the rest of the way. Gardner also led the Bulldogs in the second half with 11 points and 12 of his 20 boards. Gardner also finished with three blocks.

Clarke led NR (10-7, 8-5) with 27 points, including four three-pointers. The Warriors made 7-of-19 three-pointers (36.8 percent). Moore had 20 points, six assists and five rebounds. Johnson had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

For KF, Copeland had 15 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and three blocks. Dion Bivens had 12 points. Wright had 10 points, seven assists and five rebounds. White finished with nine points.