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Bulldogs, Warriors advance to SED semis

Nansemond River and King’s Fork moved through the quarterfinals of the Southeastern District boys basketball tournament Tuesday night at King’s Fork, but it was in quite different fashions.

In the first game of the doubleheader, the fourth-seeded Warriors defeated No. 5 Oscar Smith 44-42. NR point guard Ashton Moore, NR’s leading scorer in many games this season, made his first field goal of the night with 0:59 remaining to put NR ahead 44-42.

The victory gives Nansemond River (14-9) a berth into the Eastern Region Tournament.

In the second game, the host and top-seeded Bulldogs jumped out to a 22-4 lead and went on to their third victory of the season, 72-50, over No. 8 Hickory.

In what was a back-and-forth contest for all 32 minutes, the Warriors led by five at their widest margin and Oscar Smith led by three at the most.

Reserve guard Shannon Evans sparked the Warrior offense with his long range shooting at key points. Evans hit a three near the end of the first period to put NR up 12-9. He drained another trey midway through the second period to give NR a 19-15 edge.

Brian Clarke, who scored a team-high 14 points for NR, made a three-point play, making a fade-away jumper from a step beyond the foul line as he was getting fouled, to make NR’s lead 22-17. The Warriors couldn’t keep the momentum going though, going scoreless for the last 2:07 of the half, and NR led 22-19 at halftime.

Thirteen of NR’s 25 field goal attempts in the half came from beyond the three-point arc. Oscar Smith, even with NR mostly sitting back in a zone defense, lost 10 turnovers in the first half.

Oscar Smith moved in front in the first couple possessions of the third period. Clarke scored NR’s first seven points of the new half and a fast-break basket by Clarke made it 29-29.

A couple trips later, Evans hit a three-pointer to put NR up 32-30. Oscar Smith moved back in front, 35-32, going to the fourth period as again, NR couldn’t score and keep a potential run going in the last two minutes of a quarter.

Morris Johnson, who at 6-foot-2 is the closest thing the Warriors have to a center, but has been a constant source of double-doubles with his rebounding effort all season, went scoreless through the first three periods.

Moore, who’s had a number of games with 20-plus points, suffered with foul trouble for much of the first three periods and had managed only two points heading into the fourth period.

Johnson scored the first five NR points of the quarter and his three-point play in the paint tied the game, 37-37.

Neither side scored for more than three minutes until a Tiger basket with 3:37 left. The Warriors answered when Evans hit his fourth three-pointer of the game with 2:45 left.

With the score at 42-42, the Warriors stopped the Tigers after a long, patient possession. In transition, Moore dribbled down to a stride inside the top of the key and drained a jumper.

“I just came down and saw it was open. I saw the opportunity and just grasped it,” Moore said.

It took one more tough defensive stop to make Moore’s shot the game-winning basket. The Warriors knocked passes out of bounds twice and Moore forced a jump ball, but the arrow gave the ball to the Tigers with 5.1 seconds left.

DeJuan Wright’s off-balance, one-handed shot from just inside the foul line was off the mark, allowing the Warriors to hang on. Wright led the Tigers with 16 points and five assists. The Warriors held Oscar Smith’s top scorer, guard Alonzo Holmes, to nine points.

“I had to keep my head in the game and I was saying ‘Don’t get down because my team’s going to need me in the stretch,’” Moore said about missing long stretches of the game because of fouls.

Clarke with 14 points and Evans with 12 points were the only Warriors in double-figure scoring. Johnson finished with seven points and 13 rebounds.

In the second game of the night at King’s Fork, the Bulldogs led 8-2 1:14 into the game and didn’t look back. Led by eight points by Tre Francisco, KF’s lead was up to 22-4 a few minutes later.

Hickory rallied for a couple minutes early in the second quarter and a 10-4 Hickory run made it 30-18 Bulldogs. King’s Fork went inside to 6-foot-8 senior Davante Gardner for the last 12 points of the half, including a huge breakaway dunk and a pair of foul shots that actually came after halftime, for a technical foul whistled on Hickory’s coach as the teams left the floor at the end of the half. KF led 40-20 at halftime and 58-31 going to the fourth period.

Gardner finished with 24 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Jay Copeland had 16 points, 10 boards and three blocks. Francisco and Dion Bivens added 10 points each.

King’s Fork (21-2) has won 46 straight games, regular season and tournament combined, against Southeastern District opponents. The streak goes back to Feb. 1, 2008.

The Bulldogs and Warriors meet in the tournament semifinals Thursday at 7:45 p.m. at King’s Fork.