King’s Fork tops Oscar Smith

Published 9:34 pm Monday, February 3, 2020

By Matthew Hatfield


The King’s Fork Bulldogs faced one of their biggest Southeastern District tests of the season on the final Friday of January as they traveled to Chesapeake to take on the Oscar Smith Tigers, a squad that returned the core of its team that reached the Class 6 State Tournament semifinals last year.

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Trading long-range bombs throughout in a game that featured 20 three-point makes and plenty of fast-paced runs, the Bulldogs managed to come out on top, 72-68, to move to 15-1 overall.

“We like to shoot 3’s as well. We think we can stretch some leads by making them,” said King’s Fork Head Coach Rick Hite, whose group went from trailing by as many as eight points in the second quarter to taking a 13-point lead midway through the fourth period.

“We knew they could shoot it and keep the floor spaced. They make it hard for you to switch it or blitz it, but I thought late in the game we were able to get a hand up and contest it a little bit better than earlier.”

To no surprise, at the forefront of King’s Fork’s high-octane attack was sophomore sensation Jayden Epps. The point guard finished with 32 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals

“Coach (Hite) told us it was going to be a dogfight. It was a big district game. We just had to play hard, trust in each other and play defense to get the job done,” Epps said.

“We watched film on them and know they can shoot the ball. Our coach stressed defense, so we had to close out on the shooters and keep them out of the paint defensively in order to be successful.”

Oscar Smith countered with a sophomore star of their own in Kenyon Giles, who scored 28 points and drained seven of his team’s 11 three-pointers. While the Tigers lived behind the three-point line, their 33-percent shooting inside the arc (13-of-39) was not nearly enough for King’s Fork’s 63.3 percent (19-for-30).

“We have some unique matchup problems we can present to teams, and I think that’s how we’ve been able to get to 15-1,” Hite said. “Obviously Epps is incredible. He’s battle-tested because he doesn’t take anything for granted and approaches everything full tilt. But we have more players, and that’s what good teams should have.”

Among those standouts were sophomores George Beale and Bravion Campbell, senior Tyler Chatman and junior Quentin Livingston. Chatman had 12 points, while Livingston and Beale scored 10 apiece, each completing crowd-pleasing dunks.

“When we have highlight plays, (my teammates) feed off of it,” Livingston said. Everybody on the sideline was saying, ‘On his head Q,’ and I told them I’ve got you.”

Campbell scored all six of his points on a pair of three-pointers, plus grabbed five rebounds while protecting the hoop.

“Bravion is a big piece to our team. He sets screens and takes hits for us,” Epps said. “George is a great athlete and every play down he helps us because he can get big points or big rebounds.”

Up by three at the start of the fourth quarter, King’s Fork went on a 10-0 run with Livingston scoring seven points in the stretch. He knew their inside game would have to finish off the Tigers.

“We’ve got to be bullies in the paint,” Livingston said. “Bravion is a football star, and he’s going to bring that body inside. Even though we’re really wings, we’re good enough to play in the paint. We did that just enough to get over the hump.”

Missing three straight foul shots in the game’s final minute, King’s Fork left the door ajar for Oscar Smith, though the Tigers misfired on their final two three-point tries and the Bulldogs avoided overtime.

“You’ve got to find a way to settle down, step up to the line and make free-throws. Not only that, but also settle down when you get the ball. You’ve got to be able to see where the pressure is coming, find the outlet and the outlet has to make himself available,” Hite said.

“We’ll go back to the lab and talk about it, and hopefully we keep being in those positions and keep getting those results.”