Vikings Clinch Second
Union Pines wrapped up the regular season with a 61-49 victory Friday at Western Harnett to finish second in the regular-season Cape Fear Valley Conference boys' basketball standings.
At 10-4 in the conference, (16-8 overall) the Vikes will host the seventh seed team in the opening round of the conference tournament Monday at Union Pines. Viking head coach Bobby Purvis said after a seed meeting on Saturday that the Vikes would be facing Triton in a 7 p.m. contest.
Purvis also said that he was happy with the way his team played in the first half and felt they recovered well after an early third-period lull. He knew that his team would practice Saturday to get ready to face Triton.
"The most important thing is that we got the win," he said. "We are always happy with a win -- we fell into a few bad habits at the beginning of the second half -- but those things happen in this game (especially on the road).
"We are going to practice Saturday and work on some things we didn't do so well tonight, then get ready to play again on Monday."
The Vikings got huge games from two of their senior captains. Travis Monroe collected his 12th double-double of the year, as he finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and two steals. Derrick Ross had a team-high 17 points, 12 rebounds and six steals.
The Vikes opened the game clicking on all cylinders, implementing an effective full-court press and cashing in on four three-pointers in the first period, two by senior captain Ross and two by junior Will Maness. Sophomore Jon Toomer added six points for Union Pines from in the paint during the quarter.
Ross had nine points, three rebounds and two steals in the opening period. When Vike sophomore guard Eric Smith drove the baseline and kicked the ball out to Ross, he buried his second three of the quarter to put Union Pines up 15-5 with three minutes left on the clock. The Vikings held a 25-13 lead after one.
Ross scored six points in the second stanza, while Monroe poured in 10. Ross got two of those points when he converted a left-handed tomahawk dunk, over 6-foot-4 Elliot McNeil, despite being fouled. The Ross rim rattler extended Union Pines' lead to 33-17 with just under four minutes to play in the period.
Ross scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half, while Monroe had 12 first-half points as the Vikes held a 42-25 advantage at the half.
The Eagles (3-11 in the conference) opened the third quarter by scoring eight unanswered points to pull within nine with 5:15 left on the clock. From there, the Vikes righted the ship and, although they managed only eight third-period points, they held Western to just seven the rest of the way to take a 50-40 lead into the final frame.
With 5:30 left in the game, Eagle Markus Rayam made a pull-up jumper to cut the Vike lead to seven.
Ross would score less than two minutes later on a fast break, after a steal by J. Toomer, to give Union Pines a 55-44 advantage.
Darrell Toomer then extended the Vike lead to 57-44, with 2:27 remaining, when he made a steal and converted on a coast-to-coast drive.
After a hard-fought battle, Western Harnett cleared its bench with two minutes left in the contest.
Rayam led the Eagles, scoring a game-high 22. E. McNeil had 10 points for Western
J. Toomer scored 13 to join Ross and Monroe in double figures for the Vikes. Maness and Smith also made major contributions. Maness finished with eight points and five assists, while Smith collected five boards and four steals.
The victory capped off a remarkable run for the Vikings. After dropping two straight games in the middle of league play, Union Pines was on a precarious perch at 5-4 in the conference.
The Vikes responded by closing the season with a five-game conference-winning streak to clinch a second place finish and a likely first-round home game in the state 3-A playoffs.
In the first four games of the run, Union Pines managed to win two nail-biters on the road against (then second-place) Gray's Creek and Triton.
The Vikes took care of business at home, winning with ease, against third-place Harnett Central and a scrappy South Johnston squad.
Union Pines 25 17 8 11 -- 61
W. Harnett 13 12 15 9 -- 49
Union Pines -- A. Patel 1 0-0 2; W. Maness 3 0-0 8; T. Monroe 5 3-6 13; D. Ross 6 3-5 17; T. McLean 0 1-2; E. Smith 0 1-3 1; J. Toomer 6 1-4 13; D. Toomer 1 0-0 2; C. Henderson 2 0-0 4. Totals -- 24 9-20 61.
Western Harnett -- M. Rayam 7 6-8 22; D. Stanley 2 0-0 4; S. Rivera-Miller 1 0-0 2; T. Campbell 1 0-0 3; E. McNeil 5 0-1 10; D. McNeil; 1 4-5 6; K. Longhaney 1 0-2 2. Totals -- 18 10-16 49.
Three-point goals: Union Pines 4 (Maness 2, Ross 2); Western Harnett 3 (Rayam 2; Campbell 1).
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