KF girls turn injuries into victory

Published 5:50 pm Saturday, February 16, 2013

The King’s Fork Lady Bulldogs overcame a poor first half and injuries to major players to defeat top-seeded Western Branch 55-49 in the Southeastern District tournament championship on Friday at King’s Fork High School.

“Outside of anything else, even with us winning, just the fight that I saw that the kids had tonight, I’m just excited about that all by itself,” King’s Fork head coach Maurice Fofana said.

King’s Fork junior center Khadedra Croker did everything she could on one healthy ankle to help power her team to a 55-49 win over top-seeded Western Branch on Friday in the SED tournament championship game at King’s Fork.

The Lady Bulldogs’ 6-foot-3-inch star junior center Khadedra Croker was still hobbled from her ankle injury she suffered in the semifinal round against Grassfield, but managed seven points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.

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“When I was getting double-teamed, when I was hurt, I could depend on my teammates to take this all the way and they did good,” she said. “And I’m proud of all my teammates — I love them so much. I’m just so happy.”

Then, in the first quarter on Friday, starting junior shooting guard Shaikeyla Jordan went down with a leg injury and was out for good.

At halftime, King’s Fork had only mustered 17 points and was trailing by three.

“The first half, I was kind of upset — 17 points,” Fofana said. “I told them at halftime, we couldn’t win with 17 points.”

“We wanted to push the tempo, we wanted to apply pressure and it showed in the third quarter,” he said. “Once we applied pressure, once we pushed the ball, the game started changing.”

In the third quarter, the two teams traded leads, but crucial three-pointers by junior guard Shanell Pope, Jordan’s replacement, kept giving the advantage back to King’s Fork.

Croker shared her thoughts when Jordan had gone down.

“We were just like, ‘We got to step up’, and my best friend, Shanell Pope, she stepped up, took her place, did good, knocked down 16 points,” she said.

“We talked about it yesterday in practice, somebody else needing to step up besides (Croker), besides the normal,” Fofana said. “Tonight, (Pope’s) number was called. She did a well of a job, defensive-wise and (on) offense, like we never missed a beat.”

Pope explained her feelings when informed that she would be taking over for Jordan in the championship game.

“At first I was nervous, and then I knew that I had to step up to keep the team going,” she said.

After she hit her first three-pointer, she wanted another taste of it.

“I just tried it again and it was working, so I just kept shooting,” she said.

The Lady Bulldogs trailed by two, but a Pope three-pointer and a Croker hook shot gave them a 37-34 lead entering the final period.

Next, senior wing Adrieanna McCrary hit a basket to give King’s Fork a 39-34 lead, which Pope extended with two free throws. The Lady Bruins narrowed the lead to two when Pope hit from downtown again.

The Lady Bulldogs led 47-43 when Pope connected for the last time. Junior point guard Brittany Alston hit two free throws with 2:14 left to make it 52-47.

Western Branch senior post player, Da’lishia Griffin, who led all scorers with 23 points, ensured that the game would be close at the end when she drew an offensive foul with 1:49 remaining and then hit a basket to cuts KF’s lead to 52-49.

A turnover gave the ball back to Western Branch, but they did not capitalize. Senior wing Chantel Roberts rebounded and shortly thereafter Alston hit another free throw with 13.3 seconds to go. The Lady Bruins later inbounded with 4.5 seconds remaining and senior small forward Julissa Riddick stole the ball to secure the win.

“They thought we were going to fold, but we kept fighting, we kept fighting through all of it,” Roberts said. “They were knocking down shots, we were knocking down shots, and we just came out at the end strong.”

“We had moments during the game that I felt like, hey, it was tight, it was tough,” Fofana said. “They could have given up, but I never expected that our kids would give up, but hey, it just shows that what we drill in them and the things that they do, it pays off, because they absolutely played as hard as they possibly could play tonight in the second half.”

Pope led the team with 16 points, Riddick had 11 points and nine boards, Alston had 11 points and seven assists and Roberts had 10 points and nine boards.

“We’re the best,” Roberts said.

The Lady Bulldogs will play in the first round of the Eastern Region tournament on Monday against Ocean Lakes at Great Bridge High School.