King’s Fork guard Jayden Epps (Video Still: Antowyne Shaw/recruit757)
In Southeastern District action, King’s Fork wins a close one over Oscar Smith
by Andy Hilton, recruit757
Friday night’s game between King’s Fork and Oscar Smith had a post-season feel.
It was a dog fight, if you pardon the pun, as the Bulldogs and Tigers scrapped for 48 minutes.
Kenyon Giles kept the Tigers in the see-saw battle, as he led Oscar Smith with 28 points.
Not to be outdone, Jayden Epps scored 32 for King’s Fork.
“It was a tough game, a good district game. Gritty. They have a good team, a pretty solid team. We had to come out and play our game… defend, and we got the job done,” said Epps after the win. “They brought a good game. We brought a good game. We stressed defense. They came out hitting threes. They came out in the second half hitting threes. Our coaches told us we gotta get on them. We gotta close out and keep them out of the paint. That’s what we had to do to be successful.”
“Tonight was a good win. We needed this win. It helps us get to where we want to be,” Epps stated.
The win keeps King’s Fork in the driver’s seat for the Southeastern District title. The Bulldogs are 15-1 on the season and perfect in district play. Their only loss came against the top-ranked Norview Pilots of the Eastern District.
“I knew it was going to be a fast-paced game. Both teams like to get up and down the court, shoot threes, go to the glass… it started like that. We just wanted to settle down a little. I thought we were moving around a little too fast and making some mistakes early,” King’s Fork coach Rick Hite said. “Obviously, Epps is the guy getting a lot of attention, but our guys know they can play. They know they can step up and we’ve been doing that all year.”
The Bulldogs have six games left on the schedule, five in-district, before the post-season begins. They’ll travel to Western Branch (13-3) on Tuesday, then get a bit of a breather by facing Deep Creek (0-13) on Friday. They’ll host Phoebus (2-10) on Saturday in “The Challenge”. The Bulldogs close out the season with in-city rivals Nansemond River (7-9) and Lakeland (10-5) before finishing the season against Indian River (13-3).
Junior forward Quentin Livingston quietly made his contributions to Friday’s win with 10 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. Livingston sees his team as a tough out moving forward, but he understands that he’s going to have to make his contributions in order to push his team forward.
“Tonight’s win was a chippy win. I think we should have won by more, there was a stretch in the game where I was out for a half. That kind of hurt the team because I’m one of the leaders. On the sideline, I was still for my team. I was with the boys, but it hurt us because I got a dumb tech (technical foul) early in the game. That was my fault,” said Livingston. “When we came back out (from halftime), I made a couple big plays, got a couple of defensive stops, and coach whispered in my ear ‘you got this’.
“I feel like we’re playing at a high level. We’re playing together and no one is taking the shine. If Jayden Epps goes off and has a good night, we’re all for him. If I go off and have a good night, they’re all for me. We’re a team. We’re a family.”
Don’t count the Tigers out yet. While the loss drops them to 11-5 on the season, they’ll be heard from come playoff time, and Region 6A is fairly open for a new champion to emerge. Defending state champion Landstown (8-8) is struggling a bit. Don’t forget that most of Landstown’s losses have come by scheduling tough in tournament play. The Eagles are 7-1 in district. Western Branch (13-3) is hot. Both the Bruins and Tigers are in a good position to represent the region in the state championship bracket for Class 6, with Landstown playing the role of dark horse.
King’s Fork is in Region 4A with Smithfield (15-2), Menchville (15-2) and Jamestown (14-3). The Bulldogs will have to keep fighting for playoff seeding with the hopes they can emerge from a red hot region this postseason. Only two will move on to the state bracket, and that regional tournament will truly be a test.
– Andy Hilton