Bulldogs, Lady Bulldogs advance toward state playoffs
Published 5:36 pm Tuesday, March 7, 2023
By Matthew Hatfield
King’s Fork suffered just one loss a season ago in boys basketball and that came in the VHSL Class 4 State Tournament semifinals at Varina High School in Richmond, falling to the eventual Champion Blue Devils by a count of 84-68. One year later, the Bulldogs get a chance for redemption, thanks to a 79-57 triumph over Region 4B runner-up Matoaca in the quarterfinals at Nansemond River High on March 3.
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It marked the fourth straight playoff win by 20 or more points for a Bulldogs team that moved to 22-3 overall and pushed its winning streak to 17 games. Senior guard Sam Brannen, the Region 4A Player of the Year, led the way with 18 points. Brannen handed out seven assists as well.
Elijah Walker helped bolt King’s Fork to a 26-14 lead through one quarter of play as he bunched 10 of his 13 points in the opening frame. Also finishing in double-figures with points were Adarius Boston (13 points), Kaleb Brown (10 points, six assists) and Ryan Hite (10 points, five rebounds).
A win over the Region 4B Champion Blue Devils in the Highland Springs gymnasium this week would send King’s Fork on to the Class 4 State Championship game at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 9 at the VCU Siegel Center in Richmond. The other semifinal pits Region 4C Champion Tuscarora against Region 4D E.C. Glass.
King’s Fork girls two wins away from repeat
The King’s Fork girls basketball team successfully responded from a humbling 75-43 loss to Hampton in the Region 4A championship by soundly beating Matoaca 78-42 in the quarterfinals of the VHSL Class 4 State Tournament held at L.C. Bird High in Richmond Friday, March 3.
Coach Maurice Fofana expected a bounce-back and knew that the way they played vs. Hampton was a direct reflection of what transpired just 24 hours in a win-or-go-home regional semifinal at top-seeded Manor, where they prevailed 73-66 against a talented Mustangs squad that featured one of their former players.
“I’m happy with my team. I loved the way they played that game with Manor. It seems like we always end up in one of those kind of games where it’s a packed house, standing room only with great energy. It took a whole lot out of kids mentally and physically,” Fofana acknowledged.
“It was a do-or-die game where you didn’t want to lose to Manor, but you also want to continue to make your run to the state championship. Playing back-to-back nights, we were kind of flat. It was an emotional win and my kids really were not ready to play in that regional championship game. I could tell early in that game. We did nothing to give Hampton a fight. We weren’t really mentally prepared.”
In the win over Matoaca, junior guard Cyriah Griffin filled the stat sheet like she’s been doing all season with a triple-double of 22 points, 16 assists and 10 steals.
“Cyriah is the head of the snake,” Fofana said of a guard with upwards of 20 scholarship opportunities from Division I schools already.
Another instrumental contributor was Taylor Spruill, who recorded a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
“She defends the best player every night on the floor and is a great rebounder,” Fofana commented of Spruill.
In order to repeat as state champs, the Lady Bulldogs will have to go through Hampton in a re-match in the semifinals. The winner moves on to the state finals at VCU on March 9 against either Pulaski County or Tuscarora.
“We’ll definitely show up to play this time,” Fofana noted of this showdown vs. Hampton.
Lakeland girls see season end in quarterfinals
The exciting playoff run for the girls basketball team at Lakeland High School came to an end Friday, March 3 in the VHSL Class 3 State Tournament quarterfinals, where they were ousted by Region 3B runner-up Brentsville District, 50-36 at Nansemond River High.
The combo of Cara Vollmer and Aiden Yergey together accounted for 33 points for Brentsville, which shot 20-of-26 from the free-throw line to salt the game away late. Yergey made 9-of-12 free-throws.
Lakeland thrived offensively in last year’s state tournament quarterfinal win over Brentsville District, prevailing 69-64. This time, the three-point shots did not fall at a high frequency early and they were unable to keep the Tigers from attacking in the paint.
Down only one, 23-22 at the half, Lakeland could not solve the Brentsville District defense in the third quarter either as the Tigers outscored them 15-8 in that period to take a 38-30 advantage into the final stanza.
The Region 3A Champion Lady Cavs close out the 2022-23 campaign at 15-11 overall.