Viking Boys Garner Upset in Finale
Union Pines was able to fight back from an 11-point deficit late in the third quarter Friday and finish the game with a 31-12 run to collect an emotional 71-64 Senior Night victory over Cape Fear Valley Conference rival Western Harnett.
Viking senior guard Andrew Hatfield provided a much needed boost off the bench, scoring 16 points in the contest.
After the game, Hatfield was floating somewhere on cloud nine.
"I'm ecstatic," he said. "It feels just great. I tried to come out and bring the most intensity possible. I am usually a defensive player but tonight I felt like my offense was clicking and I just had to take over a little bit."
Union Pines coach Bobby Purvis echoed his senior's sentiments.
"Andrew Hatfield came off the bench but he played so well you couldn't keep him out of there," Purvis said.
Another senior that showed up big for the Vikings was center Bryan Collins, who had a team-high 18 points and played superb in the final quarter defensively and on the offensive and defensive boards.
Collins was excited about his team's performance.
"It's unbelievable to come in here for our last home game and pull it out," he said. "It just feels great."
The Vikings opened the first quarter with high energy and dogged determination. Mixing a box-and-one defense with a high pressure extended 2-3 zone, Union Pines made the Eagles fight for open looks.
After a fast-paced opening period, the Vikings led 18-16. Hatfield had eight in the quarter and Collins had seven.
In the second quarter Eagle senior standouts, guard Johnny Elliot and post-player Kermeriaz Harrington, opened things up offensively for Western Harnett while also playing tough defense.
Harrington finished the half with 11 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, while Elliot had 10 points and three steals. Allowing the Vikings to score just eight second-quarter points, the Eagles led at the break 32-26.
The third quarter was an old-fashioned Texas shootout that saw Union Pines outscore the Eagles 25-23.
After an early three-point field goal by Viking guard Derrick Ross that cut the score to 32-29, Western Harnett launched an offensive barrage.
Behind the scoring of Harrington (10 points, including two treys) and Elliot (six, both on three-pointers) the Eagles led 52-41 with 2:40 remaining in the third quarter.
Then the Vikings answered back, closing the period with a 10-3 run capped off by a Tony McLean layup that just beat the buzzer and cut the lead to 55-51.
In the final quarter the Viking resolve proved too much for the Eagles to handle. Harrington, who had a game-high 25 points along with 18 rebounds and 10 blocks, only scored three in the final quarter and Elliot managed just one point.
The Vikings' near flawless defensive execution limited the Eagles to nine points in the final period.
"We finally went to a 1-3 (zone) and-chaser on defense and guarded Harrington, and I think that turned the basketball game in our favor," Purvis said.
As the final quarter commenced Hatfield quickly scored on drive through the lane to cut the Eagle lead to two.
Seconds later Collins connected from the top of the arc for a three-point field goal and Union Pines was up 56-55. Collins scored again down low at the 6:50 mark to stretch the lead to 58-55.
With a 60-59 lead and 3:08 left to play Viking senior Jared Korver banged home a 17-footer. Ross then scored on a drive at the 2:36 mark. Hatfield closed off the six-point run with a baseline bucket with two minutes remaining to stretch the Viking lead to 66-59.
From there the Eagles would only come as close as five points, as the Vikings finished off Western Harnett much to the delight of the full house of loyal Union Pines fans.
Joining Collins and Hatfield in double figures for the Vikings was Ross with 13. Carson McLean added nine and Korver had seven for the winners.
Purvis was proud of his seniors and his team after the hard-fought victory.
"Give our kids a lot of credit for beating a good basketball team," he said, "We won the basketball game and our kids' effort could not have been much better.
"It's been a very emotional night, we have some very good kids here as seniors. They're right there among the best of kids that walk these hallways and to see them do well their last night in there -- that's as good as it gets for me as a coach.
"It means a great deal to them, their families, and this school and it should. We have a lot to be thankful for -- getting to play high school basketball is a very neat thing, it is a special thing."
With the win the Vikings finish conference play with a 5-9 record and a 10-14 mark overall. Western Harnett, who came into the game in a three-way tie for fourth in the conference with Gray's Creek and Overhills, finishes 6-8 in the conference and 10-11 overall.
Next up is the conference tournament starting Monday. Purvis is hopeful that his team's convincing win over a talented team will give the Vikings some momentum going into the tournament.
Hatfield could not agree more with his coach about the positive effects the victory could have on his team.
"If we can bring the same intensity we brought tonight, I don't think we can be stopped in the tournament," Hatfield said. We have been in every game this season. Sometimes we have not had the best of luck, but I'm thinking if we bring this same intensity to the conference tournament, I think we'll win."
The Vikings figure to travel to Harnett Central Monday to face the second-place Trojans. Game time has not been determined.
The Vikings lost in a close contest, 59-52, in their last matchup with the Trojans back in late January at Harnett Central.
Western Harnett 16 16 23 9 -- 64
Union Pines 18 8 25 21 -- 72
Western Harnett -- Harrington 25, Elliot 17, Autry 8, McNeil 5, Campbell 5, Kelly 2, Corley 2.
Union Pines -- Collins 18, Hatfield 16, Ross 13, C. McLean 9, Korver 7, Victor 3, Toomer 3, T. McLean 3.
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