Vikes Set for Battle of the Pines
Tonight Jon Toomer and the rest of the Union Pines Viking basketball team take on the Pinecrest Patriots in Cameron. The game is a rematch of this year's Pilot Cup Championship, which the Pats won 82-71, played just 10 days ago at Pinecrest.
If recent history is any indication, then the tonight's contest will be both highly entertaining and competitive. The last three editions of the classic cross county rivalry were all decided late in the fourth quarter and featured comeback victories by Pinecrest.
Toomer, who scored 24 points in the Vikes loss to Pinecrest in this year's first meeting, is anxious to hit the hardwood for the rematch.
"We have been working hard in practice on execution and the team is really starting to come together," said Toomer. "We are definitely looking forward to this game and are ready to get back on the court and have another go at Pinecrest."
In the Vikes 72-41 win at North Moore Tuesday night Toomer had 20 points and eight rebounds, but those stats don't quite do his performance justice. Toomer unleashed an amazing aerial assault in the game. He had four high-flying, highlight-reel dunks, including a gliding thunderous tomahawk from the baseline and a two-handed powerful put back. For the game Toomer made five of seven shots from the field.
"I did not think I would have hit my stride this soon," Toomer said. "Coming off a tough football season I figured it would have been another week or so until I really settled into it and got my basketball legs."
Toomer, a junior and first team All-District selection last year, is leading the Vikes in scoring, averaging nearly 19 points per game.
Although Viking head coach Bobby Purvis is pleased with the way his leading scorer has performed in the early going, he still believes Toomer has plenty of room for improvement.
"Both Toomer and Eric Smith are not where I think they could be in terms of their level of play yet," said Purvis.
"Having said that, Jon did do some things that I was happy to see against North Moore; he made a few jump shots and he used his left hand, but his game still has some growth in it. Eric got a little better tonight too."
Smith, a junior guard is Union Pines second leading scorer.
He is averaging better than 13 points and four steals per game. His season high came in the Vikes loss to Richmond County early this week. In that game he went for 19 points and six rebounds while collecting four steals and four assists.
Tuesday Smith finished with 12 points, five rebounds four assists and five steals.
He was nearly unstoppable in the second period as he drove through traffic and converted four times against the Mustangs on his way to tallying nine points in the quarter.
"We have now played four games this season," Purvis said, "and so far Jon and Eric have played well. What I am more interested in seeing is how they are playing with four games remaining in the season, because that will be a truer indicator of how much they have grown as complete players.
"They are both great kids and are going to continue to get better. They want to be good at this thing and that is where it all starts."
Senior Stefan Demirovic, a foreign exchange student from Montenegro, had his best outing as a Vike against Pinecrest.
He was an instrumental factor in helping break down the Patriot press, and finished the night with 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. It was an experience he said he would, "always remember."
"The environment at Pinecrest was amazing," Demirovic said, "We don't have high school basketball where I come from so playing in such a big rivalry was exciting this is all new for me.
"I honestly believe we can beat Pinecrest for sure," said Demirovic, when speculating about tonight's rematch.
"On our court, with our people -- we have a lot of fans which is like our sixth player in the game -- that means as a team we have the upper hand against them (Pinecrest) at home."
The Vikings are now 2-2 on the year as they come into tonight's clash with the 5-0 Pinecrest Patriots.
Tip-off is for approximately 7:30 p.m. at Union Pines' gym.
F.W. Manning II can be reached at 639-5481 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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