Union Pines Dunks Overhills
The Union Pines boys’ basketball team ran its current win streak to three games by advancing to the Cape Fear Valley 3A Conference tournament semifinals Tuesday.
The third-seeded Vikes survived a stern test from sixth-seeded Overhills in the opening round but managed to pull away late in the fourth quarter to secure a 65-56 victory.
In an extremely physical first half, the homestanding Vikes committed six turnovers in the first quarter but still held an 11-7 lead at the end of the frame. Union Pines then used a 20-point second period to build a 31-20 advantage by intermission, despite turning the ball over 10 times. Viking senior forward Jon Toomer had a team-high 10 points at the break along with three steals and five rebounds.
“Early on, I felt like we kind of got the game in a pretty good position,” said Viking head coach Bobby Purvis. “Then we just became a bit too careless, and you could sense in the third quarter that the game suddenly got pretty hard for us.
As the second half began, the tilt became even more visceral. The upset-minded Jaguars (8-16) played with furious abandon in the third period, utilizing a full-court press to outscore the Vikes 23-9. Overhills’ guard Larry Sumpter used a crossover-stepback to create space and then buried a three at the buzzer, giving the Jags their first lead of the night at 43-40.
With 4:53 left in the contest, Vike senior Brandon Brown made a game-changing play when he stole a pass around mid-court and slammed home a one-handed tomahawk dunk that gave Union Pines a 46-43 lead.
“I thought Brandon Brown was very instrumental for us in the fourth quarter,” said Purvis. “He gave us a real spark when we were pretty desperate.”
After Brown’s momentum-swinging jam, Toomer took over, scoring 10 points in the final four-and-a-half minutes.
Toomer made a bucket on a putback as he was fouled and sank the free throw to make the score 49-46 with 4:21 left on the clock. Then Justin Brabham stole the ball on the Jags’ ensuing possession and was fouled.
After making his first attempt at the line, Brabham’s second free throw rattled off the rim. Overhills collected the team rebound, however, Toomer swiftly stole the ball and found Chris Henderson in the paint for a basket that extended Union Pines’ lead to 52-46.
From there, Toomer secured a defensive board that directly led to a trip to the line for Vike senior Mitchell McNeill, who sank both free throws, making the score 54-48 with 3:35 on the clock. A fast break bucket by Toomer at the 2:38 mark put Union Pines up 57-52. However, Sumpter swiftly streaked down court and converted on a drive to promptly cut the Vike lead to 57-54.
A defensive board from Henderson and a blocked shot by Toomer ended Overhills' next two possessions, leading to four Viking points. Brabham and McNeill each sank two foul shots as Union Pines led 61-54 with 1:15 remaining in the game.
“McNeill gave us some much-needed energy in the last four minutes of the game,” said Purvis. “Also Justin (Brabham) showed poise down the stretch giving us steady play at the point guard position.”
Toomer put a stamp on the victory with back-to-back rim-rattling slams in transition in the closing minute.
Jaguar senior guard Marquis Smith was an all-night ballhawk, totaling eight steals along with five assists, five rebounds and 12 points. Sumpter lead Overhills in scoring with 17 points and had seven rebounds, five steals and four assists, while sophomore forward Julian Eleby turned in a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double.
“You've got to give Overhills a lot of credit,” said Purvis. “I told our team before the game that the Jaguars were coming up here hungry and with nothing to lose. They came out loose while playing extremely aggressive, and to their credit, Overhills made a heck of a basketball game out of it.”
On the night, Toomer finished with a game-high 23 points and tallied 11 rebounds, five steals and three blocks, while Henderson had 16-point, 13-rebound double-double.
“Last year, we played this game and lost. This year we played it and won,” said Purvis. “Obviously winning feels a lot better, but our thoughts starting from this moment on will be on Thursday.”
In last year’s tournament, the Vikings also came in as the third seed only to see their run dashed in the quarterfinals with an upset loss to sixth-seeded Triton.
Union Pines' (13-11) next opponent will be the second-seeded Westover (17-5), who were 70-55 winners in Tuesday’s opening-round game versus seventh-seed Gray’s Creek. The Vikes and the Wolverines split the regular season series, with each team winning on its home court. Westover won the first matchup 57-55, while Union Pines took the second game 49-46 last week.
The Vikings and Westover play at 6 p.m. in the first semifinal at Southern Lee High School Thursday. Fourth-seed Douglas Byrd will play the four-time defending champion and top-seeded Cavaliers in the second semifinal game.
More like this story