U.P. Girls Drop Richmond; Head Into CFVC Play 6-0
The Union Pines girls’ basketball team begins its 12-game 3A Cape Fear Valley Conference campaign tonight at 6 p.m. against the Overhills Jaguars.
After picking up a 50-38 nonconference victory over 4A Richmond Senior Tuesday in Cameron, the Lady Vikings enter the league opener sporting a perfect record of 6-0 on the season. It marks the best start for Union Pines under fourth-year head coach John Lewkowicz.
“This (sport) is all about adversity and how we as a team are able to respond to that,” said Lewkowicz. “We got in some foul trouble early in the third period, but the girls made the necessary adjustments on defense, shot lights out from the line and responded well against a solid Richmond team.”
While the Vikes shot a sterling 17-21 (80.1 percent) from the charity stripe in the contest, Richmond struggled mightily from the line, making six of its 22 foul shots. With the victory Union Pines completed a season sweep over the Lady Raiders (3-2), after pulling out a 34-33 win in the teams’ first match-up of the season.
“You play games like this and teams like Richmond to get ready for Friday, which is the start of our conference season,” said Lewkowicz after the Vikings’ victory Tuesday. “Moving into league play, I believe collectively we are playing pretty well.
“Currently our defense is a little ahead of our offense, which is a bit up and down right now. But the chemistry is there with these girls, the intensity is present, and certainly the will to win is there. Also our attitudes and approach are great.”
Union Pines pounced on the visiting Raiders early on in Tuesday’s contest, opening with 10 unanswered points to lead 14-5 after one period. At intermission Union Pines led 20-13 behind an 11-point first half showing from senior point guard and team captain Tyesha McLean.
After three quarters of play, Union Pines’ advantage was still at seven points with the score 32-25 heading into the final period.
On the Vikings’ first possession of the fourth frame, junior captain Crystal Hicks hit Alexandria Parris on the right wing. With space, Parris banged in a three-ball to ignite a 7-2 run for Union Pines.
From there, Union Pines maintained its lead with a strong showing from the free throw line and a good understanding of their time-killing spread offense down the stretch.
Lewkowicz said one key to Union Pines’ strong start is that several players are making major contributions each time the Vikings take the floor.
“Tonight that three-pointer Alex (Parris) made really jumped started us in the final quarter, which was huge,” he said. “It seems like we are always getting a spark or big performance from somebody.”
Supporting Lewkowicz’s claim are the statistical averages of McLean, Hicks, Tyler Ross and Tashi Whitney through the Lady Vikes’ first six games.
McLean finished with a game-high 18 points Tuesday, to go along with seven rebounds, seven steals and six assists. She is now averaging 17.2 points, 6.2 steals, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists on the season.
After a 10-point, 12- rebound double-double against Richmond, Hicks is averaging 9.3 rebounds, 5.2 steals and 3.8 assists per outing while scoring at a 5-point clip.
Tyler Ross pulled down 12 boards and scored six points for Union Pines. The sophomore post player has been a force down low in the early season, with three double-doubles, while averaging 11.8 boards and 9.8 points per game.
Senior guard Tashi Whitney tallied nine points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists Tuesday against Richmond. On the season she is averaging 8.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals for Union Pines.
Meanwhile, starting senior forward Cristina Morcom, who transferred to the Union Pines team early last season (from The O’Neal School), has developed into a physical presence in the paint.
As she has seemingly adjusted to her role as a Vike, Morcom is now producing down low with timely rebounding and strong defensive play.
Union Pines’ game against longtime CFVC rival Overhills starts at 6 p.m tonight in Spring Lake.
Last season, the Lady Vikings finished as the CFVC co-champions, alongside Westover, with a league mark of 10-2.
As Union Pines readies to play its first of four league games in an eight-day span, Lewkowicz could not be prouder of the dedication and determination he has seen from his players.
“This is a huge part of the season we have ahead of us with four league games in such a short stretch,” said Lewkowicz. “The girls have been doing everything I could ask of them to prepare for it.
“They are working hard, they are coming in for early (6 a.m.) practices a lot of the time, just to keep that edge and not fall into complacency.”
Contact F.W. Manning II at email@example.com
More like this story