Bulldogs prevail at VT camp
By Matthew Hatfield
For a second consecutive year, the King’s Fork High School Bulldogs boys’ basketball team represented Suffolk at Virginia Tech and came away as champions of the Buzz Williams Team Camp.
With some relatively new faces stepping into prominent roles, King’s Fork managed to post a perfect 6-0 mark and show the future looks bright.
“Winning two years in a row, I teased Buzz, ‘Hey, if we win it a third year in a row, we get it in for free right?’” King’s Fork coach Josh Worrell said. “The kids really played well and we saw some good competition.”
“They played together, didn’t care who scored, played defense good in spurts. We only had four kids who had gone last year. Six of them were new to going, and I thought they adjusted and did fine.”
Maybe most impressive was that King’s Fork had to sweat out some close calls, with none of their six games being decided by more than six points, according to Worrell.
“It wasn’t like we went there and dominated, but it did make for good situations understanding how to execute at the end of games, how to make free-throws and take care of the basketball,” he said. “We did a really good job of not turning the ball over, which was a really big piece to our success.”
Right off the bat, King’s Fork was tested in its first game by Halifax County, a Group 5A school. The Bulldogs turned a late two-point deficit into a two-point triumph.
“They were ahead most of the way. That was probably the most competitive game where we never got ahead more than two or three points,” Worrell said.
Other notable wins came against Radford, the reigning Group 1A State Champs in Virginia, and Martinsburg, a perennial contender in West Virginia that they ousted in the semifinals.
In a re-match of last year’s championship at the camp, the Bulldogs defeated Village Christian, a private school out of North Carolina.
“They had three or four really, really good players. We were able to keep them at bay,” Worrell said.
Several different players contributed throughout the weekend for King’s Fork. Arguably their steadiest performer was James Hatton, a 5-foot-10-inch guard with two seasons left in the program.
“You can tell he’s really worked to get better in the off-season, handling the ball and being a leader,” Worrell said. “Every time he shoots the ball now I think it’s going in, and he’s done a good job of improving his game.”
Others that provided valuable minutes in the backcourt were rising junior swingman Rontre Pope, soon-to-be senior Omar Skinner and rising sophomore Tre Bailey.
“Omar did a good job in the championship game of handling the ball and playing defense. He’s very athletic,” Worrell added.
“Rontre is just consistent. He shot the ball well the last two games. Whether he’s scoring or not, he’s rebounding, defending and doing all the other things.”
In the front-court, rising 6-foot-6-inch senior Raemaad Wright and 6-foot-2-inch forward Byron Lawrence, a rising junior that has previously flown under the radar, were effective around the basket.
“He’s strong, physical, can finish around the rim and get some backside rebounds,” Worrell said of Lawrence. “He keeps his nose around the ball and makes a lot of hustle plays.”
Winning has become the norm at King’s Fork, which has produced 10 straight winning seasons and was a victory shy of their fourth state playoff berth last winter. Nonetheless, this particular group showed some of the qualities necessary for them to be successful during the 2016-17 campaign.
“They throw the ball to the open guy and did a good job learning how to win games. Sometimes, we played a little stall ball trying to buy some time, get some rest and ran it to perfection,” Worrell said.
“There’s always room for improvement because I fuss at them all the time. But it’s neat to see how quickly they can respond and react to things we worked on two to three months ago.”