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Down the stretch

The Southeastern District is down to the last three dates of the basketball season, but there’s still a great deal to figure out heading into the district tournaments.

On the boys’ side, first-place King’s Fork plays at second-place Great Bridge. Great Bridge’s lone district loss came at King’s Fork, 71-58, on Jan. 5. If the undefeated Bulldogs (15-0) go to 16-0, they would have a two-game lead over the Wildcats with two games left.

The regular-season championship would give the Bulldogs back-to-back titles, and an automatic berth and a first-round home game in the Eastern Region Tournament. The rest of the teams in the district must rely on the district tournament to make the regional tournament.

With an experienced team, KF head coach Joshua Worrell, believes his Bulldogs know what’s at stake against Great Bridge, but at the same time, will play under control.

“When we beat Indian River, that was a big game and the guys were excited, but they were expecting to perform well and they don’t expect anything less,” Worrell said.

“I think we understand what’s going on. We have a good number of guys who’ve been in this position the last couple years and I think our kids know how it works,” Worrell said.

The Bulldogs have outscored their district opponents by an average of 24.6 points per game. In the first meeting against the Wildcats, KF raced out to a 34-9 lead at the midpoint of the second quarter. Great Bridge fought back to as close as four points late in the third quarter before the Bulldogs regrouped and pulled away again.

Worrell liked the energy his players played with last time versus Great Bridge. He didn’t like turnovers his side committed to help the Wildcats back into the game.

“We have to get better at that to move on in the season. The kids are starting to understand that. Turnovers are usually a big thing in games and they give the other team opportunities to make runs,” said Worrell.

Turnovers and defensive rebounding, even for a team with 6-foot-8 senior Davante Gardner and 6-foot-7 senior Jay Copeland in its starting lineup, are crucial against Great Bridge and many top teams KF’s sure to face the rest of the season said Worrell.

Nansemond River and Oscar Smith are likely locked into being the fourth- and fifth-place teams in the district. The Warriors (9-6) are three games behind third-place Indian River and Oscar Smith (8-7) is two games ahead of sixth-place Deep Creek. NR plays at last-place Western Branch Tuesday evening.

Looking ahead to a district tourney game, with the winner getting an Eastern Region spot, Oscar Smith beat NR 55-52 in Chesapeake in December. NR beat the Tigers at home, 67-65, two weeks ago.

Lakeland (2-13) is in ninth-place and needs a 2-1 or 3-0 finish, then probably a little help beyond that, to make the eight-team district tourney.

Lakeland, King’s Fork and Nansemond River have all clinched a spot in the girls basketball district tournament, but all three teams can still do a lot of maneuvering in the next two weeks.

Lakeland is the best example. The Lady Cavaliers (7-8) are in fifth place, but could still wind up anywhere from third to eighth. Nansemond River and King’s Fork, both with 6-9 district records, could finish from fourth to eighth.

There’s clear incentive to avoid being the seventh- or eighth-seed. As the standings are at the moment, No. 7 would face 14-1 Western Branch and No.8 would face 15-0 Indian River.

On Tuesday, the Lady Bulldogs host Great Bridge (2-13), NR hosts Western Branch and Lakeland plays at third-place Grassfield (10-5). A win by Grassfield would knock the Lady Cavs out of the possibility of finishing third.

“We’ve just got to continue to work harder. For so long, it’s been that way and we’re trying to change it,” said Lakeland head coach Alan Jones Friday after his team’s 41-27 win over Hickory.

For Lakeland, just making the district tournament is a big step in the right direction compared to years past. Being one of the four SED teams to reach regionals is next, and getting as good a seed as possible would make that more likely.