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Bulldogs to battle Commodores in regional tourney

Joshua Worrell and his Bulldog basketball players relieved to get through the first round of the Eastern Region Tournament Monday night against Ocean Lakes, but they weren’t too happy with how they played in doing so.

King’s Fork avoided any real drama in the fourth period of its 59-43 victory that got it into the last eight of the region and Wednesday evening’s quarterfinals at Norfolk Scope. It wasn’t the level of play that will keep the Bulldogs moving forward too much longer in the postseason though, said Worrell.

“We had spurts up and down and we were inconsistent,” said King’s Fork’s head coach.

“When we had good effort for a while defensively, on offense we weren’t executing like we’re able to. Then it would go the other way and we weren’t executing on defense,” Worrell said.

“We played kind of a sluggish game and we were lucky to get through,” Worrell said.

Regardless, surviving and advancing is the main name of the game at this point in the season, even if you’re the third-ranked team in the state. When King’s Fork gets big games from its two leading post players, Davante Gardner and Jay Copeland, it’ll be tough for any opponent. Gardner led KF with 20 points and 14 rebounds Monday while Copeland added 16 points.

The Bulldogs (23-2) will face Maury (20-6) Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Norfolk. The Commodores moved through the first round with a 66-57 win over Hampton. The eight remaining teams in the Eastern Region are playing for two spots, the two finalists, into the VHSL Group AAA State Tournament.

“Maury is a very good team. They have very good guards who can handle under pressure and attack the cup. They are extremely good shooters if you leave them open,” Worrell said.

“It’ll be a tough challenge. We’ll have to come ready to play,” Worrell said.

Deonte Mercer scored 18 points, all on three-pointers, in Maury’s win versus Hampton. Six-foot-4 sophomore guard Jamal Ferguson scored 18 points as well. Inside, Maury’s led by 6-foot-8 Alphonso Leary.

This season is the 34th season for Maury under head coach Jack Baker. Baker’s won 615 games and is one of four basketball coaches in Virginia High School League history to win 600-plus games and do so all at one school. The Bulldogs won’t be able to throw anything at Maury the Commodore coach hasn’t seen.

“We have to make sure we do things the right way. You can’t prepare for every little thing. We have to work on what we’re doing defensively and just be ready to play hard,” Worrell said.