King’s Fork Boys Lose Tight One to Maury in Region 5B Semis

Published 8:50 am Thursday, February 22, 2024

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Photo and story by: Matthew Hatfield

A highly anticipated battle between the King’s Fork Bulldogs and Maury Commodores in the Region 5B Tournament semifinals with a spot in the State Playoffs on the line went down to the wire on Wednesday night at Norfolk State University’s Echols Hall.

Facing their largest deficit of the night at 11 points with 1:29 to go, King’s Fork battled to the final possession to have a chance at advancing. It started with a three-pointer from guard Elijah Walker, followed by a steal on an inbounds pass and corner three-pointer from Carter Bullock.

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After Maury missed four straight free throws in a span of 3.7 seconds, it opened the door for the Bulldogs to potentially send the game into overtime. While he had been limited without a three-pointer on the night, junior shooting guard Adarius Boston was chomping at the bit to change that with 6.7 seconds to go.

With the Maury defense focused in on Boston, the Bulldogs got a quality look from the corner to Bullock, who followed his miss with a put-back as time ticked down. The clock eventually ran out as Maury survived, 47-46. 

“We really had three options with Boston, Carter or Walker. They jumped Boston, which left Carter open. It was on line, but it was just short,” explained King’s Fork head basketball coach Rick Hite.

King’s Fork led by as many as 10 points — 24-14 — with 5:19 to go in the second quarter. Following a physical first half that saw a combined 24 fouls called, the Bulldogs claimed just a three-point advantage of 24-21 heading to the locker room.

“We started to hit a little groove, and then the fatigue set in, had to get subs in and the subs weren’t ready,” Hite noted.

Maury point guard Adrean Newton rose to the occasion, scoring 14 of his game-high 19 points after half-time.

 “I thought the game was out there for either team to go get, and Newton just went and took it,” Hite added. “If they were going to lose, it was going to be because he didn’t make the plays. He wanted the basketball, stepped up and made the plays.

“In a game like that, you’ve got to execute every possession. You can’t leave food on the plate and I thought we did.”

In defeat, Bullock led the way for King’s Fork with 14 points off the bench, scoring seven in each half. Boston chipped in 11, including a perfect 7-of-7 from the foul line. 

King’s Fork concluded the season at 19-5 overall. For most teams around the area and state, that would be plenty to celebrate. For a Bulldogs team that was trying to earn its fourth berth to the State Tournament since 2020, it left them wanting more.

“We were good, won games and finished second in the region. We’ve been fortunate over the last couple years to have great senior leadership with guys who had high basketball IQ’s. This group was competitive and athletic,” said Hite, disappointed they followed up a season-low 53 points in a regional quarterfinal escape vs. Bethel with an even lower point total and just two assists compared to 17 turnovers.

Five seniors — Walker, Zekhi Darden, Dashawn Lucas, Nyshon Claude and Kairan Holliman — graduate as they head into the offseason.

“Finding that real consistency was difficult,” Hite acknowledged. “It’s the little details that we didn’t put enough emphasis on, and at times we were too selfish. That really hurt us not just this game, but really all year long.”