King’s Fork wins holiday tournament

Published 9:26 pm Monday, December 30, 2019

By Matthew Hatfield


Seldom do teams that get behind 11-1 win basketball games. Then again, rarely do teams have the collection of talent that the King’s Fork Bulldogs possess.

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In the championship game of their holiday tournament against a John Champe squad from Northern Virginia that came in ranked No. 2 in the state at the Class 6 level, King’s Fork shrugged off the early deficit and recovered from missing their first 10 shots to claim a 12-point lead by halftime. They then had to overcome losing that double-digit advantage and rally in the fourth quarter before eventually pulling away for an 80-66 victory that kept them undefeated at 8-0 overall.

“You’re not going to win a game in the first four minutes,” King’s Fork Coach Rick Hite reminded his team. “We talk about playing in four-minute windows. They won the first four minutes convincingly. We tried to get stops, get ourselves back in the game, but more importantly pay attention to details, so we can play our game. Our guys kept their composure and got back in the game one possession at a time.”

Stabilizing the Bulldogs, to no one’s surprise, was sophomore point guard Jayden Epps, named the Tournament MVP after finishing with 24 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Epps not only scored nine of his team’s first 11 points, he re-grouped from scoring just two points in the third period by tallying 11 in the final frame — igniting a 16-2 spurt in a matter of 3:32.

“That’s a sign of a really good, mature basketball player,” said Hite on his floor general, who’s now averaging 30.8 points per game on the season. “I talk to him all the time about getting to your spots. Teams are going to throw every type of defense at us. You’ve got to keep trusting the guys around you, and that makes us a really good basketball team.”

Besides Epps, another impact performer was sophomore center Bravion Campbell, who bunched 10 of his 15 points in the second quarter when the Bulldogs went on a 14-0 run to seize control. Campbell protected the paint by grabbing eight rebounds.

“Coach Hite stressed defense, because we were letting them get open shots. The next quarter, we basically closed out better and rebounded better,” said Campbell, who faced a tough assignment inside against Champe’s Tyler Savage, an East Carolina University football signee who finished with game-highs of 34 points and 13 rebounds.

“He’s a tough guy. It was just a matter of trying to box out early.”

The physicality Campbell displayed inside was instrumental as King’s Fork out-rebounded Champe 53-35 for the contest, including 14-3 in the second quarter.

“He’s not going to change who he is,” Hite said of Campbell. “He’s going to play, compete, is more skilled than people give him credit for, and he likes competition. He’s a grown man out there. We’re lucky to have him.”

Joining Epps on the All-Tournament Team was senior shooting guard Tyler Chatman, who recorded 17 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore George Beale was their fourth double-figure scorer, notching 10 points.

Being the final team standing in this holiday tourney was meaningful to host King’s Fork in representing the city while many of their new faces on the roster continue to learn each other.

“The last two years we didn’t win this (tournament). I think Lakeland and Nansemond River are outstanding basketball teams. You throw Nansemond-Suffolk Academy in too, and you have really good basketball in Suffolk. If you want to see good players, Suffolk has it,” Hite stated.

“King’s Fork is in a unique situation. A lot of our parents went to either Lakeland or Nansemond River, so they still have those ties. Kids transfer all the time, so it’s hard to buy into these allegiances to the different schools. None of us play for the same state title. Compete hard at each other the whole time, and then we try to go win our respective state. When people realize that as a whole, we’ll get where we need to go, all the schools.”

As matchups the next two Saturdays with Class 5 title contenders Norview and Green Run loom, the Bulldogs know the schedule won’t get any easier.

“We can be pretty good. We just need to start faster,” Campbell said. “We’re not really worried about anybody but us. We just have to play our game.”


2019 King’s Fork Holiday All-Tournament Team:
Jayden Epps (MVP) – King’s Fork
Tyler Chatman – King’s Fork
Cameron Hargraves – Lakeland
Luke Wiliamson – Nansemond River
Tyler Savage – John Champe
Jalen Jasper – John Champe