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Bulldog big men lead the way

King’s Fork overpowered its way through the first round of the Eastern Region boys basketball tournament Monday evening.

The Bulldogs got 20 points and 14 rebounds from 6-foot-8 senior Davante Gardner and 16 points and seven boards from 6-foot-6 senior Jay Copeland to pull away from a game effort by Ocean Lakes and win 59-43.

The Dolphins, the fourth-seeded team out of the Beach District, hung around until early in the second half before too much of the two Bulldog big men equaled a decisive 13-2 run.

With King’s Fork leading 27-20 at the half, Copeland scored KF’s first six points of the period. A pair of free throws by Copeland made KF’s lead 33-22. Gardner followed on KF’s next possession with a power move into the middle of the lane and a soft shot for the hoop.

KF’s full-court press led to a steal by Derek Wright, then a break down the floor by Dominique Patterson ending with Patterson tossing an alley-oop up for Copeland and a two-handed jam.

After another stop by the Bulldog defense, the ball went back into the paint for Gardner and despite being triple-teamed, Gardner tossed in a short jumper and was fouled for a three-point play and a 40-22 KF lead.

From there, King’s Fork’s lead was safe, but the game didn’t start out so simply for the hosts.

The Dolphins used a spread offense and looked for back-door cuts against King’s Fork’s man-to-man defense. It worked a couple times for baskets early on, but a few errant, over-eager passes by the Dolphins also led to easy steals by King’s Fork.

After the score was tied, 9-9, the Bulldogs used an 8-2 run in the last three minutes of the first quarter to gain the lead for good. Gardner was 6-for-6 at the line in the opening period and Copeland added five points.

A rebound and put-back basket by Copeland put KF up 22-16 and a three-pointer by Patterson on KF’s next possession made it 25-18 with 3:19 remaining in the half. Just when the Bulldog offense seemed to be finding some rhythm, it stalled for the rest of the half. At the same time though, KF’s defense held steady and Ocean Lakes let the last couple minutes of the half go without taking advantage.

Ocean Lakes was led by football and track star Justin Hunter. Hunter is committed to be a wide receiver and be a triple jumper and long jumper for the University of Tennessee next year. With a couple incredibly athletic drives to the basket included, Hunter finished with 21 points.

In addition to Gardner’s 20 points and Copeland’s 16, Dion Bivens added 11 points, five rebounds and four steals. Off the KF bench, Patterson scored six points and Fred Scott added four. KF won the turnover category 18-12.

The Bulldogs (23-2) advance to the regional quarterfinals to face Maury Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Norfolk Scope. Maury defeated Hampton 66-57 Monday night.