King’s Fork beats Phoebus
Published 7:45 pm Monday, February 10, 2020
By Matthew Hatfield
Playing their final non-district game of the 2019-20 season with the postseason around the corner, the King’s Fork Bulldogs hosted “The Challenge,” on Saturday night and took on a Phoebus program that reached the Class 3 State Championship game last year.
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Lamenting their recent loss to Western Branch from earlier in the week, Bulldogs Coach Rick Hite was pleased to see his team’s fast response, scoring the contest’s first six points just 49 seconds in and never trailing the rest of the game. King’s Fork assisted on all eight of their field goals in the opening quarter and drew four charges through eight minutes. That set the tone for a 72-58 win over the Phantoms.
But while Hite was glad to see Tyler Chatman, Quentin Livingston, Amonti Hill, Jayden Pettes and his son Ryan Hite all draw charge along with the offensive output, he felt they still need to be able to put together a more complete performance.
“We’ve got to sustain it for four quarters,” Hite said. “We had a lot of mental lapses, looked disinterested at times, which is disheartening for a group that should pride itself on playing tough basketball with the ability to execute. Even though we did get 72 points, we didn’t do those things for a good portion of the game. We’ve got to be better.”
His message following a 73-72 loss to Western Branch four days prior was simple and concise.
“Play our game,” Hite said. “We didn’t deserve the Western Branch game. They were more physical, executed and deserved to win that game. That I didn’t want to do against a Phoebus team that plays hard and will attack.”
Staying on the attack for the Bulldogs was sophomore point guard Jayden Epps, who in addition to his game-high 30 points to keep him right in the forefront of the area’s scoring title, made several influential plays defensively.
“He commits to the defensive end,” Hite said of Epps. “I wish I could put him on five guys at times, and he’d like to guard five guys. The kid wants to compete, and if you want to compete, he’ll find a way to get it done.”
Ryan Hite hit a pair of early three-point shots, while sophomore George Beale scored all nine of his points in the second quarter to help Epps out with the scoring load.
“They can score the basketball,” Hite said. “I tell them all the time to be aggressive and look to score. I want them to defend. For us to get to where we want to go, I think we’ve got to defend better.”
The Phantoms stayed somewhat within striking distance by converting 11-of-27 three-pointers, though they never could trim the deficit to single digits in the second half.
King’s Fork now moves to 17-2 overall and in the driver’s seat to earn the top playoff seed for Region 4A with a 6.42 simplified power ranking — just ahead of Smithfield at 6.26 to begin the week. Hite wants to keep his team sharp with their final three regular season games coming against teams all searching for postseason bids themselves — Nansemond River, Lakeland and Indian River.
“It’s playoff-mode basketball, and you have to take your game to another level at this time of the year,” Hite said. “We talked about getting to this point, and here we are. It’s about doing it on offense, defense, and then you’ve got to have your bench ready to go. With how frantic we play, we need all 13 of those guys.”