Titans are too big for KFHS

Published 9:03 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2017

By Matthew Hatfield

Special to the News-Herald

The King’s Fork Bulldogs boys’ basketball team closed out its regular season on Monday night in Norfolk against the Lake Taylor Titans.

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Ranked No. 3 in the state in Group 4A, the host Titans proved a bit too much to handle for the entire 32-minute contest, eventually shaking off a strong start by King’s Fork and prevailing 73-60.

“We probably had two possessions each quarter that changed the flow of this game,” remarked Bulldogs coach Josh Worrell. “Early on, I think we could’ve been up 12-2.  When you play really good teams, you have to take advantage of these opportunities.”

“Effort-wise, I’m not upset with them,” he said of his team. “We played well enough to stay close and give ourselves a chance to win.”

King’s Fork opened by scoring the first six points of the game and claimed a 20-14 lead when senior guard Omar Skinner drained a three-pointer at the quarter buzzer. Senior center Raemaad Wright was a major factor out of the gate with 10 points and seven rebounds in the opening period.

“He could’ve had 16 in the first quarter,” Worrell noted.

With a 27-20 lead midway through the second period, turnovers started to pile up for the Bulldogs. They went from committing just one in the first quarter to turning it over 10 times in the second period, including three in a span of 58 seconds.

Lake Taylor went on a 12-0 run and took a 32-29 lead to halftime.

“When we take our time against the press, we can beat it, and we showed it,” Worrell said. “They started getting out of their press, and then they went to the run-and-jump.”

In the third quarter, the Titans made 9-of-14 field goals, including their first three attempts from three-point range, to push the deficit to 15.

“You’ve got to know who the shooters are,” Worrell said. “There are certain guys, we don’t mind them shooting the basketball. Then there are certain guys, we can’t let them shoot the basketball.”

However, King’s Fork didn’t fold. The Bulldogs trimmed the lead to single digits on a few occasions, but couldn’t go on a run to tie the game or take the lead.

“They tried to press us to bust it open in the third quarter, and they didn’t,” Worrell said. “We kept it right there, get it within 6-8 points, and here comes that turnover that we force that puts the game in a different realm.”

Back on Jan. 20, King’s Fork lost to Lake Taylor at home, 82-57.

Despite the outcome being the same, the rematch was a much different game.

“Way better,” Worrell said, comparing his team’s performance this time to the previous encounter. “We missed a lot of free-throws early on in the first game. We were 1-for-7 in the first quarter that night, and it was a two-point ballgame. It was 19-19 with like two minutes left, and they went on a run and got up eight at halftime. In the third quarter, we faltered.

“This time, we weathered the storm, kept fighting and put ourselves in a position to be right there.”

Wright had a double-double of 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 12 rebounds. Junior guard James Hatton chipped in 14 points. Skinner added 13 points, while junior Rontre Pope supplied some valuable plays on the defensive end of the court in the form of four blocks and three steals.

Now the Bulldogs (14-8, 7-3) turn their attention to the postseason. They host to the winner of Deep Creek/Wilson in the semifinals of the Conference 17 Tournament on Feb. 14, with a regional playoff berth at stake.

“This is the part of the season where you find out what you’re made of; you play hard or you go home,” Worrell said. “I think they’re ready for it and it’s just going to be about executing and doing what you’re asked to do when you’re on the floor.”