Bulldogs drop state final
Published 6:47 pm Saturday, March 14, 2015
The 2014-15 King’s Fork High School boys’ basketball team wanted to breathe on Saturday the same rarefied air that the 2009 state champion Bulldogs did, but it wasn’t to be.
Instead, that past thrill of victory became paired with Saturday’s agony of defeat as I.C. Norcom High School pulled away from King’s Fork and won 52-40 in the VHSL Group 4A state championship game at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Stuart C. Siegel Center.
“I think the first half, we did OK,” Bulldogs coach Josh Worrell said. “And then we had opportunities to stay up four or stay up five, but then they would come down and make a big shot or we just wouldn’t capitalize defensively on a loose ball or rebound and give them an extra shot.”
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King’s Fork trailed for most of the first quarter, but then junior guard/forward Keith Stagg made a well-placed baseball pass across a large portion of the court to senior guard Craig Ingram, who finished the play with an expert shot off the glass.
The play gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game, a 10-9 advantage they held to end the first quarter.
Ingram, who helped the Greyhounds win a state title last year before transferring back to King’s Fork, scored half of the Bulldogs’ points in the opening period.
In the second quarter, it was the Greyhounds who produced a 10-9 scoring edge, leaving things locked in a 19-19 tie at halftime.
Neither team shot well in the first half, with Norcom going 7-for-22 from the field, 31.8 percent, and King’s Fork going 7-for-21, 33.3 percent.
The Greyhounds got off to a fast start in the third quarter, taking a 24-20 lead.
Stagg, who only had three points in the first half, responded with a three-pointer to make the score 24-23, but that was as close as the Bulldogs would get the rest of the way.
After holding onto the ball for a bit, Norcom junior guard Travis Fields, the Conference 17 Player of the Year, drove and scored to make it 30-23 with 2:08 left in the third.
Right after that, Craig Ingram drew a foul and went to the line for two, but came up empty.
The results of those two possessions gave a snapshot of some pivotal trends in the second half.
Once the Greyhounds got up, they began to hold the ball out near half court and spread out King’s Fork’s defense.
“They do it all year long, that’s their way to play, and they do a very good job with it,” Worrell said.
In addition to creating one-on-one matchups for Norcom’s quick guards, it was a strategy that yielded some passes inside to open players for easy baskets.
Worrell said this happened because “you’ve got to shift and jump and try to make sure they give the ball up, make them make the extra pass, and they do a good job of that.”
And when the Bulldogs got the ball and drew fouls, they struggled in an area where they normally excel — free throw shooting.
“It wasn’t the same as it’s been all year,” Worrell said, noting his team has normally shot over 75 percent in games this season. “We’ve only had one game where we’ve shot below 50 percent.”
Saturday made it two games, as King’s Fork went 9-for-19 from the line, 47.4 percent.
The third quarter ended with the Greyhounds up 32-23. For the period, they shot 50 percent from the field, going 6-for-12, while the Bulldogs were only 1-for-3, held to four points total.
King’s Fork got back into the game to start the fourth quarter by going on an 8-2 run, fueled by Stagg and Ingram. Stagg hit a layup, went 1-for-2 from the line, then 2-for-2 to make it 32-28, and Ingram later produced a three-point play to make it 34-31.
But Norcom then built a substantial lead for good, with a run that featured six points from Travis Fields and five from sophomore forward Kevin Davis. Each of them finished with a game-high 16 points, and Davis added 10 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
Stagg led the Bulldogs with 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Ingram added eight points.
King’s Fork finished the season with an overall record of 19-10. It fell to Norcom in both the Virginia High School League Group 4A South region and 4A state title games, but did win its first Ironclad Conference tournament championship this year.