‘One game away’

Published 9:28 pm Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The King’s Fork High School girls’ basketball team wanted to be on the hardwood this morning at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center in Richmond, playing in the Group 4A state championship game.

King’s Fork High School junior forward Amesha Miller operates down low against Monacan High School on Monday during the Lady Bulldogs’ 79-55 loss in the Group 4A state semifinals in Richmond.

King’s Fork High School junior forward Amesha Miller operates down low against Monacan High School on Monday during the Lady Bulldogs’ 79-55 loss in the Group 4A state semifinals in Richmond.

But a 79-55 loss to Monacan High School in Monday’s state semifinal prevented that dream from coming true.

The Lady Bulldogs were hoping the second time would be the charm against the defending state champion Lady Chiefs, who beat King’s Fork 72-54 on Feb. 25 in the 4A East Region semifinals.

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“Our game plan changed some from what we had the first time we played them, but the key was that we had to stop the ball,” Lady Bulldogs coach Maurice Fofana said.

He noted that his team knew Monacan wants to get out and run. Stopping the ball meant stopping the outlet pass that would activate the Lady Chiefs’ fast break.

“When we made them play half-court basketball, they couldn’t beat us,” Fofana said.

Creating fast breaks was the key to their success, “and they did it to perfection,” he said.

Fofana said his team did a pretty good job in the first quarter, and though Monacan held a 13-point lead after the second quarter, he still thought that the Lady Bulldogs were in a good position.

But they were unable to take advantage of opportunities in the second half to keep themselves in the game.

King’s Fork’s defense demonstrated effectiveness on the day in different areas of the game.

While Monacan junior guard/forward Jaiden Morris piled up 21 points in the first half, the Lady Bulldogs held her to only six in the second half.

However, they also had to contend with 6-foot-1-inch junior guard Megan Walker, who had college coaches watching her play as an eighth-grader and is ranked on ESPN.go.com as the No. 1 recruit in the nation for the class of 2017.

Walker had 10 points at halftime, but ended up with 23 for the game to go with 13 rebounds and five assists.

Her height as a guard created a mismatch when her team was on offense, but Fofana liked circumstances when his team had the ball, because he had confidence in junior forward Amesha Miller’s ability to play against Walker down low.

He was frustrated with the lack of foul calls from the officials, though.

“I just felt like they allowed my post players to get beat up down there,” he said.

Fofana was not disappointed by his players’ effort for the game.

“I think, overall, they all played hard,” he said, and while he did not list anybody on his team as having had a particularly great game, he noted they all fought it out to the end as a team.

Asked what he will remember about the 2015-16 Lady Bulldogs and this season, Fofana said, “One game away.”

“This team has given me my best record since I’ve been there,” he said. “This team has taken me as far as I have ever been as a coach. This team made school history.”

This was the first King’s Fork girls’ basketball team ever to make it to the state tournament.

“It’s a lot that I’ll remember with just this team here,” Fofana said.

Four seniors saw their time as Lady Bulldogs come to an end on Monday — Jac’Quazja Council, Miasia Daniels, Jazlyn Dunn and Latonia Thomas.

“They will be greatly missed,” Fofana said, adding that they contributed leadership and consistent toughness.

While he does not know who all will be back next year, allowing for the possibility of transfers and other circumstances, the potentially returning cast is impressive.

“If everything stays the way that it is now, I feel good,” Fofana said.

After that, “it just depends on what kind of summer that your kids have,” he said.

Miller, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds on Monday, should be back for her senior year, and “she’s looking to shock the world,” Fofana said on Tuesday. “She wants a state championship. That’s the last thing she told me when we talked yesterday.”