Mustangs Put Up a Fight, But Lady Vikes Prevail
Union Pines held off a spirited run by host North Moore to hang on for a 51-43 victory in Tuesday's Pilot Cup girls final.
Union Pines captain and point guard Alishia Mosley was named tournament MVP after averaging 17.5 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and three assists in two tournament games. It was her second time taking home the most valuable player plaque, as she also won the award as a sophomore when the Lady Vikings claimed the 2007 Pilot Cup at Union Pines.
However after the contest, the Viking captain was most ecstatic about her squad regaining the Pilot Cup crown. Last year at Pinecrest, Union Pines mounted a second-half comeback in the title game to force overtime, only to fall by three points to the host team in the extra period.
"To win this tournament again means everything to our team," said Mosley. "We came out here and held off North Moore to get the job done. The Mustangs played a great game and really brought it to us hard, but we bounced back and came even harder to wrap up the win, and it just feels great."
Mosley started the game with a hot hand, scoring 11 of the first 13 points in the opening period as the Vikings held a 17-4 margin after one quarter.
By halftime, Union Pines led 25-10 and seemed ready to run away, but the Lady Mustangs must not have gotten that memo. A three-point field goal by North Moore's Katelyn Sheffield cut that margin to 10 points, making the score 29-19. Less than a minute later, junior Tashonna Farmer found senior forward Shakorya Brower down low as North Moore trimmed the Vike lead to single digits with the scoreboard reading 30-21 at the midway mark of the third quarter.
North Moore head coach Sammy McNeill was pleased with the performance and energy he received from his squad in the second half, especially considering that eight days prior to the game, the Mustangs dropped their season opener 66-34 to the Vikings at Union Pines.
"When we went to halftime, I told the team we had to give a better effort if we wanted to compete," said McNeill. "Really our focus in the final two quarters was not whether we won or lost, but to play better as we continue to prepare for the conference schedule. So I am proud of our ladies for coming out and giving an outstanding effort in the second half."
The Vikes did close the third quarter on a 7-2 run to lead 37-23 as play moved on to the final period. But while the last quarter wore on, North Moore's box-and-one defense on Mosley continued to frustrate Union Pines. Mustang senior Lauren Green shadowed Mosley for most of the second half, limiting her to just four points at the line and keeping her scoreless from the field.
Meanwhile, North Moore steadily chipped away at the Viking lead. An offensive board and putback by Hillary Walters closed the gap to 42-35, at the 3:11 mark, then with just under two minutes remaining, Mustang freshman Jalisa Davis, who scored 35 points in Saturday's opening round, buried a bomb from the left corner to cap a 16-3 North Moore run that made the score 42-39 in favor of the Vikes.
Union Pines would answer directly with a clutch three-point play the old-fashioned way by Tyler Ross. The freshman scored down low on an assist from Mosley and her ensuing free throw put the Vikings in front 45-39.
Down the stretch, the Vikings used free throws from Mosley and junior captain Tyesha McLean to salt the game away.
Viking head coach John Lewkowicz praised both teams for putting on a great show and commented that when it is an intra-county match-up in a championship game, all the record books and odds go out the window.
"I love this North Moore team," said Lewkowicz. "The Mustangs have several players with great individual skill sets and are a very quick squad overall. They are a spunky group that is well coached, and I feel confident they will be a factor in their league this season and cause some damage.
"Despite battling foul trouble, I was extremely proud with the way Mosley, McLean and Ross helped us regain a sense of balance as a team after North Moore made that run. Those three girls all came through big in the end to close the door on a great win for us in a dramatic and fun final."
Mosley led all scorers on the night with 17 points, including 13 first-half points, and finished with nine rebounds, three steals and three assists. McLean had eight second-half points to tally 14 on the night along with five steals and four rebounds, while Ross notched a new career high, scoring 12 points while grabbing seven rebounds and collecting three steals. Union Pines sophomore Crystal Hicks did not score but still managed to be a factor, tallying seven steals, six rebounds and five assists.
North Moore was led by 14 points from Davis, who also finished with four steals. Brower added 11 points and six boards before fouling out early in the fourth quarter. Walters added eight points, five boards and five assists for the Mustangs, who are now 1-2 on the year.
With their second Pilot Cup title in three years, Union Pines moved to 3-1 on the year with the championship victory.
Contact F.W. Manning II at (910) 639-5481 or by e-mail at email@example.com
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