Hornets sting Bulldogs in close match

Published 7:22 pm Thursday, January 25, 2018

By Matthew Hatfield

Correspondent

The King’s Fork Bulldogs boys’ basketball team played host to the Deep Creek Hornets on Monday night in a rematch of an exciting game played earlier this season.

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King’s Fork won the first encounter, 81-77, in Chesapeake on Dec. 8. But this time, the Hornets had revenge on their minds, stinging the host Bulldogs 75-68.

“I thought we did a great job early on of limiting them to one shot. Then we started fouling,” noted King’s Fork coach Rick Hite on what went wrong after a red-hot start in which his squad jumped out to a 15-2 lead. “We got into some of our bench guys and they didn’t come in with the intensity that was needed. But they just did a really good job of getting second and third shot opportunities.

“Those guys really wanted it more than our guys, I thought. They weren’t going down like that, playing with a different attitude and swagger, and it showed.”

Keontae Boyette looks for a play during the game. (Matthew Hatfield photo)

Deep Creek’s defense baited King’s Fork into too many long-range field goal attempts. For the game, the Bulldogs were 5-of-22 from three-point land, including 0-for-7 in the second half.

“That’s in our DNA right now. When things get a little tough, we settle. Instead of attacking and playing downhill, we sometimes take the first look that’s open. That’s not necessarily the best look you can get. A little bit of that is inexperience. We’re still finding ourselves,” Hite said.

“We’ve got guys that can make shots, but they don’t understand basketball situations yet. Sure, it’s open, but you don’t always need to take it at that time, especially when you’re in scramble mode. They came back and attacked us at the rim.”

King’s Fork’s game plan, both offensively and defensively, centered around Deep Creek’s standout forward Caleb Butts, who entered averaging 24.2 points and 14 rebounds per game.

After amassing 19 points and 13 rebounds, Butts fouled out with 1:08 to play and King’s Fork trailing by five. Yet, they were unable to make up that deficit in the closing seconds.

“That was part of the plan,” Hite said of getting Butts to foul out. “We know they switch everything. Butts is capable of doing a lot of things on the floor, but we wanted to make him work at both ends of the court. Our guys just did not execute down the stretch. In a close game like that, and it’s always going to be close with our two teams, you’ve got to execute and pay attention to detail. I congratulate them because they came and took the game.”

There were chances late for the Bulldogs to catch Deep Creek. Free-throw shooting ended up plaguing them.

King’s Fork went 6-of-6 from the foul line in the first half compared to 15-of-31 in the second half.

“That’s mental toughness. You’ve got to want to get fouled and then step to the line and make them,” Hite said. “It was a hard game to officiate, and I thought the officials did the best they could. It was a matter of two teams understanding what was on the line, not giving an inch. We won at their place, and they wanted to come to ours and make a statement. They did that.”

One of the bright spots in defeat was senior guard James Hatton, who finished with 19 points and was 11-of-15 at the charity stripe. Keontae Boyette chipped in 15 points, while Sam Dunn added 10 points and five rebounds.