KF heartbreaker makes school history

Published 6:34 pm Saturday, March 11, 2017

By Matthew Hatfield

Special to the News-Herald

The King’s Fork High School girls’ basketball team arrived at the VCU Siegel Center in Richmond on a mission. They faced nationally ranked, defending two-time state champion Monacan Chiefs, led by the top-rated prospect in the country, Megan Walker.

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It was a rematch of the 4A-East Region Championship won by Moancan 74-65. This time, the game was even closer and wasn’t decided until the final possession.

It was a bittersweet ending for King’s Fork, which for a brief moment thought it had a dramatic victory, only to end up a point short, 60-59.

With 14 seconds to go, Monacan took the lead on a basket from Walker, who finished with a game-high 35 points, 18 of which came in the fourth quarter. But King’s Fork wasn’t discouraged, because they still had an opportunity to win their first-ever state title, having erased a 12-point deficit earlier in the game.

The Bulldogs missed two shots on the next sequence before the ball rolled out of bounds. Monacan celebrated, only to see the officials huddle up and put 0.3 seconds back on the clock.

Given another chance, King’s Fork junior guard Camary Harris took the inbounds pass and scored. But officials waved off the potential game-winner, saying the shot wasn’t released prior to the horn sounding.

While the referees discuss whether the game had ended, King’s Fork High School’s Neecole Brown takes a knee on the court at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Stuart C. Siegel Center on Friday. Officials ruled that there were still three-tenths of a second to play, but that wound up being about a tenth of a second short of what the Lady Bulldogs would have needed to pull off an upset over undefeated Monacan High School in the VHSL 4A state championship game.
R.E. Spears III/Suffolk News-Herald

“Driving towards the basket, I felt like we got fouled with Camary trying to go in for a lay-up,” King’s Fork coach Maurice Fofana said of the game’s final sequence. “I felt like the basket should’ve counted. That’s exactly what it was. I asked the ref, and he kind of waved it off before she even caught the ball.”

Monacan was called for the game’s first four fouls, yet the physical battle saw both teams have to use reserves frequently. Despite 28.1-percent shooting from the field, King’s Fork didn’t let Monacan pull away, and at halftime the Chiefs led by a slim margin of 29-25.

“I was pleased, but not surprised,” Fofana said. “When we played them before at Monacan, we had opportunities to take the lead. At halftime, we were only down four, and we missed a bunch of shots.”

A big reason King’s Fork stayed close was the outside shooting of senior guard Cydney Nichols, who scored a team-best 28 points, converting 4-of-6 three-pointers and 10-of-11 free throws. Nichols knew she needed to step up with star Amesha Miller, a UNC-Greensboro signee, battling foul trouble.

“We knew we had 16 more minutes left and that this was our game,” she said. “We just had to go out and take it.”

King’s Fork seized control in the third quarter, outscoring Monacan 18-3 and holding a vaunted Chiefs attack with three Division I recruits to just a single field goal. Their lead, surprising to many at the packed arena, reached 11 points by the start of the fourth quarter.

“Our game plan was to allow Megan to do what she could,” Fofana said. “We just felt like she couldn’t beat us by herself. We shut everybody else down and didn’t allow them to have the big night that they usually have.”

Monacan found its rhythm, both from the field and drawing key fouls, down the stretch. In particular, Walker proved why she’s so highly revered with 16 points during the final 2:53 of regulation.

“I don’t know if the pope or the president was here tonight, but they didn’t allow us to get close to Megan,” Fofana said. “You couldn’t get near her”

“Looking at the stats, they shot 30 free-throws and one kid shot 24,” he added. “It’s hard to win that way. I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t finish the game out the way that we should’ve. They only scored three in the third quarter and scored 28 points in the fourth quarter. That’s a big swing.”

King’s Fork finished with a 43-36 advantage in the rebounding department. Nichols was the lone double-figure scorer. Harris had eight points, while Neecole Brown and Nylah Young scored seven apiece. Miller was held to six points after putting up 30 in the previous meeting with Monacan.

The Bulldogs saw their season end at 24-6 overall. Even though it wasn’t the ending they had hoped for, they made history for the school by reaching the state championship game for the first time ever. Plenty of memories were made, too.

“I felt like these were a great four years here at King’s Fork,” Miller said. “Every year, we went further and further.”

“From the first day we got together in the summer, we said we were going to here and meet Monacan. A lot of people would love to be in this position that we were in, and we made it here. Throughout my career, I had great coaches and great teammates. I really can’t ask for anything more.”