Honors flow in as King’s Fork wins another region crown

Published 8:33 pm Wednesday, March 1, 2023

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By Matthew Hatfield

Contributing writer

Doubling up Heritage of Newport News 84-42 last Friday night, the King’s Fork Bulldogs boys basketball team won its third regional title since 2020. 

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“Our guys came ready to play and we got after them,” said King’s Fork coach Rick Hite.  “I think we’ve found our groove offensively with a little bit of a lineup change.  Defensively, we have so many interchangeable parts and guys willing to lay it on the line for the team.”

King’s Fork will head into the VHSL Class 4 State Tournament with a record of 21-3 overall after winning its three regional playoff games by an average of 36 points per contest.

Hite credits their practice habits and competitiveness in those settings for bleeding over into the games.

“It’s an all-out war defensively,” he said, lauding his defense for often translating into instant offense. “It does create a lot of offense for us. The way we play predicates on getting stops, getting out in transition, playing a lot of guys and playing with a lot of pace.”

Postseason honors have come rolling in for the Bulldogs with senior guard Sam Brannen being named Region 4A Player of the Year and Rick Hite selected as Region 4A Coach of the Year. Joining Brannen as a First Team All-Region pick is Ryan Hite. Kaleb Brown and Adarius Boston were chosen Second Team All-Region, while Zekhi Darden was tabbed Honorable Mention All-Region

“I knew we’d have a lot of guys back and a lot of experience.  Early on, the guys had to find out who they were as a team. We’ve got a good blend of veteran leadership with Kaleb, Ryan, Sam and Bryson, and then the young guys like Boston, Jeremiah [Morris], Elijah Walker, Zyon [McGlone] figured out that for us to go where we need to go that they play a huge role in that, too,” Hite said, applauding their savvy as well. “Something I think what gets overlooked with the group is they have a high IQ.  They’re really smart, bright kids. You look into their GPA’s and they take a lot of information and process it very well. As a coach, I’m fortunate and super blessed for sure because these kids may not even realize how much they’re doing and just do what we ask of them.”

King’s Fork will face Region 4B runner-up Matoaca (16-8) – which fell to Varina 77-66 in the Region 4B title game – in the State Tournament quarterfinals at Lakeland High on Friday, February 3rd.

Warriors season ends in regional quarterfinals

Nansemond River saw its resurgent season end in the Region 5B Tournament quarterfinals with a record of 14-9 overall, falling to last year’s Class 5 State Tournament runner-up Maury by a count of 57-41.  

The Warriors had a couple of first half leads and only 21-20 at intermission before the Commodores pulled away after half-time. 

We gave a good account of ourselves against Maury.  We just couldn’t get enough scoring production, especially late,” said Warriors coach Ed Young. “Overall, with us losing four starters from the season before and eight players altogether, I didn’t know what to fully expect. I figured there would be some growing pains, but to start 7-1 with the lone loss being to a really strong King’s Fork team was very encouraging. Our finish to the regular season was not the best with six of the nine losses being games I felt we could’ve certainly won. Despite that, our group – especially the outgoing seniors – has a lot to be proud of to get 14 wins and make it to regionals for the first time since 2019 with the five teams above us being ranked in the Top Ten in the state pretty much the whole year.”

Seniors Jalen Duckett (12.4 points and 4.5 assists per game) and Chris Hayes (17 points and 11.5 rebounds per game were dependable performers for Young’s bunch. Another senior, Chris McClary, “went from a lesser role to being asked to often guard the leading scorer of our opponent.”

While they’ll miss some outgoing seniors that graduate, returnees such as Devin Gaines and Saleem Williams – both of whom routinely scored in double-figures – provides optimism for what’s head.

“We have a good nucleus coming back, so I’m looking forward to them embracing the challenge of going further next year,” Young added.

Lady Bulldogs Not Quite Done:

Despite falling to Hampton High 75-43 in the Region 4A Championship on February 24th, the King’s Fork Lady Bulldogs are still moving on to the State Playoffs at 19-6 overall.  They were able to qualify for the State Tournament thanks to their victory at top-seeded Manor, 73-66, on round earlier in the regional semifinals.

Imania Clemmons posted a double-double with 21 points and 16 rebounds in the regional semifinal victory.  Niyah Gaston chipped in 19 points.  Also recording a double-double with 13 points and 11 assists was Cyriah Griffin.

To repeat as State Champs, the King’s Fork girls will need to win three more games.  That begins with the State Tournament quarterfinals against Region 4B Champion Matoaca, a 73-58 winner over Hanover in its last playoff outing.