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Bulldog season ends in triple OT

King’s Fork’s journey toward a second straight boys basketball state championship ended Wednesday night in the Eastern Region Tournament quarterfinals as Maury rallied from a 10-point deficit with 5:13 left in regulation then traded blows to outlast the Bulldogs, 87-86, in triple overtime.

It’s a cruel paradox about competition, but the Bulldogs’ state championship last March, three straight district tournament titles, two straight district season titles and No. 3 state ranking going into Wednesday only made the upset loss to the Commodores tougher to take.

“This group of guys has more wins than anyone ever has at King’s Fork. When these guys started here, we were a laughing stock. Teams used to look forward to blowing us out. Everything these guys have done, there are so many big accomplishments,” said King’s Fork head coach Joshua Worrell.

“They’ve been through it all and tonight, sometimes the game throws you a curve and that’s life, too,” Worrell said.

The Bulldogs (24-3) had their chances to run away from Maury and, even once the Commodores rallied back, King’s Fork had opportunities to pull out a last-second win.

In the second quarter, a three-point play by Jay Copeland, followed by a three-pointer by Derek Wright, followed by another bucket in the lane by Copeland, built a 24-11 KF lead at the 5:41 mark. The Bulldogs led 35-21 at halftime led by their inside game. Center Davante Gardner had 13 points in the first half and Copeland had 12 points.

The Bulldogs stalled through most of the third period. KF made only 4-of-16 field goals and 2-of-6 free throws in the quarter. KF remained mostly in control though and was still up 45-34 going to the fourth quarter.

Maury scored the first four points of the fourth period. KF answered with Gardner in the paint. A three-point play by Gardner, even while spinning into and shooting over a Maury double-team in the lane, made it 52-42 KF with 5:13 left.

From that point, Maury’s offense was unstoppable. Commodore point guard Sim Frazier made back-to-back three-pointers to cut KF’s lead to 54-50 with 3:25 left. Frazier’s big shots brought the Maury fans and all of the neutral fans pulling for an upset fully into the action. Frazier led Maury with 31 points and nine assists.

KF clung to the lead until Alphonso Leary’s dunk made it 62-62 with 0:23 remaining. KF’s last possession of regulation ended with Dominique Patterson missing a 17-foot jumper a couple seconds before the horn.

Gardner’s fourth three-point play of the game made it 67-65 and a pair of free throws by Gardner made it 69-65 KF with 2:14 left in the first overtime. Gardner finished the night with 37 points, 17 rebounds and four assists.

Maury answered and a free throw by Frazier tied the game, 70-70, with 0:12 left. Again with the last chance to win, King’s Fork got the ball to Gardner, but he was triple-teamed against the baseline and couldn’t get a shot off before the horn.

The Bulldogs gained a two-possession lead again in the second overtime before Maury drew even at 80-80. A lay-up by Gardner put KF up with 0:43 left and KF regained the ball after a quick Maury miss on the other end.

After a KF timeout, the Bulldogs passed over the top of Maury’s full-court press, but Tre Francisco missed a lay-up that would’ve put KF up by two possessions as the clock ticked under 0:20.

Maury’s Khobi Williamson grabbed an offensive rebound and scored with 0:05 left. Fred Scott’s 55-foot heave at the horn was no good.

Now in the third overtime, attrition was KF’s biggest problem. Starting guard Dion Bivens, who finished with 10 points, and Patterson, KF’s sixth man, had already fouled out. Three more Bulldogs, Wright, Copeland and Gardner, had four fouls.

The Commodores, with Frazier standing with the ball near midcourt, ran off the first two minutes of the third overtime without opposition by the Bulldogs. When Maury decided to attack, Frazier slashed to the basket, scored, and drew Copeland’s fifth foul. Copeland had 22 points and 13 rebounds.

A basket by Gardner made it 87-86 Maury with 0:13 left. Maury’s John Young missed two free throws and KF gained possession thanks to a jump ball after Young’s second miss.

Down to 9.6 seconds left, Scott wound up with the ball on the right wing and as he was looking for a way to pass the ball inside to Gardner he traveled.

Even down to 3.2 seconds left, the drama wasn’t done. On Maury’s inbounds pass, a Commodore received the pass near the baseline, slipped and according to the officials, but not the KF bench or fans, narrowly avoided traveling and touching the out-of-bounds line.

“I don’t think there was anything defensively we could’ve done differently,” Worrell said.

“Maury made some big shots and that’s the game of basketball and often what it comes down to,” Worrell said.

“I told my coaches (before going into the locker room) we weren’t going to talk about what we should’ve done differently tonight,” Worrell said.