Trojans End Viking Boys' Season
Union Pines boys' basketball season came to an end Monday at Harnett Central with a 61-50 loss in the first round of the Cape Fear Valley Conference tournament.
The second-seeded Trojans (13-9 overall) were able to eliminate the seventh-seed Vikings with a combination of overwhelming interior defense and an exemplary showing from the free-throw line.
Harnett Central converted on 16 of 20 free throws in the contest, while their senior frontcourt duo Rodney Cox (6-foot-7) and De Angelo Jackson (6-8) combined for 14 blocks and altered countless other Viking low-post field goal attempts.
Cox finished the night with 13 points, 14 rebounds, eight blocks, three assists and two steals. Jackson collected six rebounds, six blocks, five points and two steals.
"We came out and tried to play aggressive defense," Cox said, "contest every shot and rebound real hard."
Union Pines coach Bobby Purvis felt the Trojan defense was a factor in the game.
"We were sluggish on offense early," he said, "and we had a hard time scoring."
Both teams came out of the box slow and after one quarter the Trojans led 9-5.
For most of the second quarter neither team was able to do much offensively as both struggled to find a solid rhythm.
The Vikings trailed by one with two minutes remaining in the second quarter, but the Trojans were able to capitalize on turnovers to finish the half with a seven-point run, capped off by a well contested three-point field goal that swingman Brad Buske banged in with 15 seconds left on the clock.
As the buzzer sounded, Harnett Central had captured some momentum and a 23-15 lead going into the break.
Cox finished the first half with seven points, four blocks, eight rebounds and a steal.
Led by point guard Deshawn Spears the Trojans were finally able to find their rhythm on offense in the third frame.
With 4:40 to play in the third stanza Spears connected from 30 feet out with Cox for a monster ally-oop that rattled the rim, brought the crowd to their feet and put Harnett Central up 32-20.
Spears had six points, two assists and a steal in the quarter as the Trojans led 40-28 with one period to play.
Harnett Central coach Will Gage felt Spears was instrumental in helping his team find their stride.
"We weren't in the flow early," said Gage. "I talked to Deshawn (Spears) in the morning about possibly having to set the tone with it being an unusual type game.
"We feed off his enthusiasm and hustle -- he played extremely hard."
Spears scored four points in less than a minute span to help put his team up 49-32 at the midway point of the final period. He led all scorers in the game with 18 points and collected eight rebounds.
Jackson felt it was crucial for his team to build as big a lead as possible.
"We know they can hit threes and that if we didn't pull away they could make a run and catch us," he said.
Jackson's thoughts proved to be on the money.
Trailing by 17, Viking senior guard Carson McLean connected on a deep three at the 3:50 mark. A minute later in the game, junior guard Tony McLean netted a trey from the left arc and all of a sudden it was a single-digit game, 49-40, with 2:51 to play in regulation.
With 1:44 remaining, Viking center Bryan Collins connected on two clutch free throws and it was a two-possession game as the 17-point Trojan lead had dwindled to 50-44.
Needing a stop, the Vikings extended their defense and Spears was able to find a wide-open Earl Laing underneath where he scored and was fouled. Laing made the free throw to convert the three-point play, and the score stood at 53-44 with 1:36 on the clock.
After a quick Viking turnover, Spears was put on the line where he sank both shots. Then Buske made a steal and scored on a fast break to put Harnett Central up 56-44.
Tony McLean refused to give up as he made two long threes in a 20-second stretch but the Viking comeback bid fell short as the Trojans prevailed with an 11-point win.
Both Tony McLean and Carson McLean lit it up from behind the arc all game. Tony had five three-point field goals (three in the final period) and nine of Carson's 14 points came from downtown.
After the game Purvis was proud of his team but was disappointed for his players because their season was over and his seniors' high school basketball career had come to fruition.
"My kids played hard, we put our best foot forward," said Purvis. "Sometimes it's meant to be and things go your way. Tonight they didn't.
"They have been great ambassadors for the game and for their school -- they are great kids."
Harnett Central now advances to the conference semifinals at Southern Lee where it will face the winner of the quarterfinal game between South Johnston and Overhills.
When asked who he would prefer to play next, Jackson (who will be playing basketball for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro next year), was not the least bit hesitant. "I want Overhills because we lost to them before."
Union Pines ends its season with a 10-15 record.
Union Pines 5 10 13 22 -- 50
Harnett Central 9 14 17 21 -- 61
Union Pines -- T. McLean 15, C. McLean 14, Toomer 7, Collins 6, Korver 4, Victor 2, Ross 2.
Harnett Central -- Spears 18, Cox 13, E. Laing 12, Buske 10, Jackson 5, C. Laing 2, Harris 1.
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