Viking Boys Comeback Falls Short
Union Pines played tough Tuesday at South Johnston but lost a close 48-39 contest to its Cape Fear Valley Conference boys' basketball counterparts.
The Vikings made a late run at the Trojans in an effort to spoil their Senior Night celebration, but South Johnston hit its free throws down the stretch to improve to 9-4 in the conference (14-9 overall).
With the Trojans clinging to a 26-25 lead entering the fourth quarter, senior post player Ford Tanner was able to take over in the paint, scoring 10 points in a 12-4 Trojan run that made the score 38-29 with 2:48 left to play in the game.
But the visiting Vikings still had some fight left in them. A Bryan Collins layup cut the score to 38-31 at the 2:30 mark. With 1:13 left to play Viking guard Derrick Ross connected from the right arc to pull Union Pines within six, 42-36.
Fifteen seconds later another Vikings' three-point field goal, this time by senior guard Carson McLean, made it a one possession game as South Johnston led 42-39.
That was as close as Union Pines would come.
South Johnston closed the game out from the free-throw line, going six for six in the final 55 seconds to earn a well deserved 48-39 victory.
After the game, Tanner, who totaled a game-high 25 points for South Johnston, including 12 in the final quarter and 16 in the second half, spoke about his performance and the magnitude of the Trojans' win.
"I have to do whatever I can to help my team win," Tanner said. "If I have to step up and score a bunch one night that's what I'll do. If another night I have to play great defense -- I'll do whatever it takes.
"We needed this game to keep pace and finish high in the conference and coming out here and playing strong as a team on Senior Night is a great feeling and getting the victory is even better."
The Vikings stayed close throughout, riding a strong defensive effort to stay with the Trojans.
Implementing a box-and-one defense in the first quarter to shutdown Trojan senior sharpshooter Cole Dewey, the Vikes limited their opponents to just nine points in taking a 10-9 lead.
The second quarter was another defensive struggle. The Vikings remained in their box-and-one, while the Trojans opted for a 2-3 zone. The period was nip-and-tuck all the way.
With 3.5 seconds left and Union Pines up 18-15, Dewey was fouled by Ross. Dewey made his first shot and missed the second but Tanner was able to score on a tip-in at the buzzer to knot the game at 18-all and grab some momentum for South Johnston heading into the halftime break.
As the third quarter commenced, both teams still struggled on the offensive side of the ball. Tanner made four of his team's eight points in the period, while Viking center Collins scored all seven of Union Pines' third-quarter-points.
Collins said he came out being more aggressive than he had in his past few games.
"I tried to come out and get after it tonight," Collins said. "It worked out for me. I was getting to the loose balls and even got some easy layups for a change."
Collins led the way for the Vikings with 13 points. Korver had nine and Ross finished with seven for Union Pines. With the loss the Vikings fall to 4-9 in conference play and 9-14 overall.
Union Pines coach Bobby Purvis was proud of his team, their execution and the effort they gave.
"I thought our kids played very well," Purvis said. "We were in the basketball game, we followed the script that we wanted to play in this game about as well as we could and it was really anybody's game -- we stayed in the game because of our execution."
Purvis also gave credit to South Johnston.
"We played a good basketball team," Purvis said. "They made some very big shots late in the third quarter and early in the fourth -- Ford Tanner is a good player and he made some tough shots.
"We played hard and competed hard and we are just going to try to get ready for Friday night."
Union Pines will host Western Harnett Friday for Senior Night. The game will follow the girls' game, which starts at approximately 6 p.m. It will be the last career home game for seniors Collins, Korver and McLean along with Philip Picerno, Andrew Hatfield, Reggie McCrimmon and Marcus Victor.
Collins is looking forward to Friday night.
"I hope we can get a big win going into the conference tournament," he said, "and hopefully good things will happen for us."
Union Pines 10 8 7 14 -- 39
South Johnston 9 9 8 22 -- 48
Union Pines -- Collins 13, Korver 9, Ross 7, Victor 4, T. McLean 2, Andrew Hatfield 2, Toomer 2.
South Johnston -- Tanner 25, Dewey 11, Eason 8, Massengill 4.
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