Oscar Smith takes a bite out of Bulldogs

Published 9:03 pm Wednesday, January 6, 2016

King’s Fork boys’ basketball Coach Josh Worrell talks with freshman Tre Bailey during Tuesday’s game against Oscar Smith.  (Matthew Hatfield photo)

King’s Fork boys’ basketball Coach Josh Worrell talks with freshman Tre Bailey during Tuesday’s game against Oscar Smith.
(Matthew Hatfield photo)

By Matthew Hatfield

Special to the News-Herald


For parts of Tuesday night’s boys’ basketball game, the King’s Fork Bulldogs appeared to be up for the task of knocking off an undefeated Oscar Smith squad on the road.

At other times, they looked like an inexperienced team still trying to find itself, which makes sense considering only one starter — sophomore Rontre Pope — was a starter in last March’s state championship game against Norcom.

Oscar Smith, presently ranked No. 1 in the state in Group 6A by VirginiaPreps.com, broke a late second-quarter tie with a key run before the half and used a barrage of three-pointers in the third quarter to pull away from the visiting Bulldogs, 68-47 in Chesapeake.

“We play well in spurts, and we listen to our assignments in spurts. That’s the problem we’ve had all year,” King’s Fork head coach Josh Worrell said.

It was true at the L.C. Bird Holiday Showcase in late December, where Worrell felt his team made some strides. Though they lost to the likes of John Marshall and Stonewall Jackson, they hung close with both for a good chunk of each contest.

“It showed us that we can compete and play. We’ve just got to play consistently for four quarters, not for three quarters,” Worrell said at the time. “We’ve got to finish better.”

King’s Fork came into Tuesday’s matchup focusing on the Tigers’ top two shooters, Radford signee Donald Hicks and fellow senior Desmian Devane. With 3:10 left in the second quarter, King’s Fork had managed to hold the dynamic duo to just three field goals. The score was deadlocked at 18.

However, Oscar Smith closed out the second quarter on a 14-4 run to take a 32-22 lead into the locker room at halftime. They were sparked by point guard Darrin Pugh, who scored a season-high 22 points on the evening to go with eight assists.

“We started denying Hicks and Devane their shots. Number 23 (Pugh) shot the ball really well, but if they’re going to beat us, that’s who I want to beat us, instead of the other two,” Worrell stated. “You’ve got to make those guys beat you, and fortunately for them they have a good, well-rounded team.”

Hicks erupted in the third period with four three-pointers, and the deficit soon grew to 17 points.

Compared to Oscar Smith’s 10-of-19 from three-point range, King’s Fork had trouble keeping pace, going 4-of-17 from long distance, with two of those makes coming when the game was out of reach.

“Just because they shoot the threes doesn’t mean we have to shoot the threes, and we fell in love with that,” Worrell noted. “We shot 11 threes in the first half, and that’s not something we’re used to doing.”

James Hatton led the Bulldogs with 12 points, four rebounds and three steals. Pope chipped in seven points apiece, along with Don Stancel and John Spearman.

The Bulldogs are in the midst of a rare three-game losing streak, dropping their record to 5-5.

“It’s a tough swing. But you’ve got to understand I’ve lost 30-something games in a row. Three games isn’t anything,” pointed out Worrell, referencing his 2-42 start as head coach through the program’s first two seasons before guiding them to a string of nine consecutive winning seasons entering this year.

“Our biggest game this week is Thursday, not this one. That’s because it’s a conference game. Right now we’re 1-0 already in the conference, and we’ve got to stay focused on our conference.”

King’s Fork meets Deep Creek on Thursday and then hosts Conference 17 foe Churchland on Friday.