Crabbers pinch Bulldogs in overtime

Published 11:43 pm Saturday, February 25, 2012

The King’s Fork High School boys basketball bench watches in the final moments of the game as their team lost 57-52 to Hampton High School in the Eastern Region semifinals at Norfolk Scope Saturday night. See Tuesday’s paper or check back here later for a detailed story from the game.

By Matthew Hatfield


Clearly the surprise story of the 2012 Eastern Region Basketball Tournament, the third-seeded King’s Fork Bulldogs pulled off unexpected upsets of two-time defending state champ Norcom and Beach District champion Landstown to make it to Saturday night’s semifinals at the Norfolk Scope.

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The Bulldogs came within a whisker of pulling off another stunner, but the clock struck midnight in overtime as they fell to the Peninsula District champion Hampton Crabbers, 57-52.

King's Fork High School boys basketball players react to action on the court during the waning moments of their 53-51 upset of Landstown High School in the Eastern Region quarterfinals at the Norfolk Scope.

It marked the second game in a row that Hampton bounced out a Suffolk school. The Crabbers eliminated Nansemond River in the quarterfinals, 62-56, in a game where they rallied from nine down in the fourth quarter. King’s Fork led by two with 2:32 to play in overtime when the Crabbers scored seven unanswered points — all at the free-throw line — to send the Bulldogs home heartbroken.

“I went in there and told them I haven’t told this to any team in eight years, but this is the best team I’ve ever had believe in what we want to do,” King’s Fork coach Josh Worrell said after the game. “They worked hard and did what we asked of them. We don’t have superstars. Our kids just play hard and bought into what we want to do, and that’s the toughest thing with this loss.”

Much like their victory over Landstown on Thursday, the first half versus Hampton was a back-and-forth battle with each answering big plays by the other. A three-pointer with 5:17 left in the second quarter by Zach Johnson, who’ll play college basketball at Army, came in the midst of a 9-0 run for the Bulldogs. They led 22-16 at that point and went up 28-27 at halftime, despite not attempting a single free throw in 16 minutes of play.

In the third quarter, Hampton’s Anthony Barber, the Peninsula District Player of the Year, otherwise known as “Big Cat,” began to seize control. Barber scored seven straight points, and King’s Fork trailed 42-35 late in the third period.

At that point, Coach Worrell called a time-out and made some adjustments in an effort to contain Big Cat and bog down the Hampton offense.

“We switched some defenses back around in the fourth and made them have to think about what was going on,” Worrell noted. “That helped us there at the end of the third quarter, and they just continued to believe in our offense and what we were doing.”

It worked for the Bulldogs, limiting Hampton to 30-percent shooting on the night, including Barber going just 6-for-22 from the field and 3-for-13 after halftime. Hampton finished the final 7:43 of the contest without one field goal.

“The last quarter and overtime, they made one basket,” Worrell said. “I can’t ask anything else from our guys on the defensive end,” Worrell added. “We made a great run there to have a chance to go ahead.”

King’s Fork was able to take advantage of getting in the double bonus with 2:19 remaining in regulation. Junior Byron Taylor sank a pair at the foul line to trim Hampton’s lead to one, and C.J. Hailes made 1-of-2 at the charity stripe with 1:16 left to knot the score at 50. Neither team scored from there, setting up overtime.

Hampton went considerably cold, and King’s Fork didn’t shoot as well as they had in the first half. The Bulldogs were just 1-for-8 in overtime, seeing shots that normally go in come up short. But Worrell saw a difference in other categories, too.

“We lost the rebound margin by four, lost the free-throw shooting battle tremendously, and we lost the turnover battle,” he said. “The amazing thing is, you lose those three battles, which are three big keys in any game, and we still had a chance to win.”

Johnson finished one rebound shy of his third straight double-double, posting 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor and nine rebounds. Juniors Rod Parrett and Jacorey Smith chipped in eight points apiece.

King’s Fork’s season ends at 18-9 overall.

While King’s Fork will say good-bye to senior starters like Johnson, Hailes and Trevon Wiggins, they do return several key ingredients for next season.

“Our program is going to be fine and it’s not going anywhere,” Worrell continued. “We have some good players and kids that are willing to fight hard.”