Vike Girls Fall in Double Overtime
The Union Pines girls’ basketball team came up short in an epic double-overtime battle Friday against Cape Fear Valley Conference rival Southern Lee in Sanford.
Although the tally at the final buzzer indicated a 49-45 win for the homestanding Cavaliers, at the end of the night Union Pines head coach John Lewkowicz felt there were really no losers.
“It doesn’t get any better in terms of purity than what the fans saw on the floor tonight,” he said. “All of those kids played their hearts out in this game and none of them are getting paid a cent to do so. They do it because they love the game, to compete and they are all champions.”
One prime example of a champion-caliber performance came from Lady Vike captain Crystal Hicks. The senior point forward, who finished with a 16-point, 12-steal, 11-rebound triple-double, singlehandedly jump-started her team with an awe-inspiring effort early in the final quarter.
After struggling shooting from the floor, Union Pines trailed 19-15 through three periods of play. Hicks then opened the final quarter by banging home the first two shots she took. Both baskets were bombs of the three-point variety, as the second tied the game at 21-all.
Hicks then made a steal and hit junior captain Tyler Ross with a pass that led to a trip to the line and the Vikings first lead of the night at 22-21 with 6:04 left in regulation. In the final quarter Hicks had eight points, four steals, three rebounds and two assists.
“Crystal was spectacular,” said Lewkowicz. “She is phenomenal and just took charge out there with her court game. Every time we needed a steal or the ball to go to a certain spot on offense, or some penetration, she came through. She is just an awesome player that gives her heart and soul no matter what.”
From there, Ross and the rest of the Union Pines team passionately followed suit as a 14-minute thrill-filled roller coaster ride of a finish played out on the hardwood.
After Southern Lee spurted off five unanswered points, an 18-footer by Hicks on an assists from her younger sister, sophomore Tiffany, cut the Cav lead to 26-24 at the 4:30 mark. Trailing by six points, the Vikes got a crucial basket in the paint from Ross to trim the deficit to 30-26 with 1:40 remaining in regulation.
Junior guard Dasia McCrimmon, who has been battling a lingering right knee injury, then stepped up in a huge way. First she made a steal and layup with 1:30 to go. With less than 40 seconds remaining and Union Pines down by four, she then caught a pass from Ross and buried a three-ball from deep behind the right arc to bring the Vikings within one at 32-31.
With time ticking down Crystal Hicks disrupted a Cav dribbler, resulting in a steal by Tiffany Hicks, who passed the ball to Ross. Then Ross made a beeline to the hoop and scored on a drive to give the Vikings a 33-32 lead with 11 seconds left on the clock.
After a Southern Lee timeout, the Cavs got the ball past half court but struggled to find a shot. In the waning moments, Jerraysheya Fox drove down the right baseline, apparently dribbling the ball off her foot and out of bounds with one second remaining. However, a blocking foul on the Vikings was called on the play.
Fox hit the first shot of the one-and-one chance, but her second clanged off the back right rim, sending the contest into the first overtime.
Early on in the initial extra frame, Ross made one of two free throws to put Union Pines up 34-33. After Deshele Sumpter swished a three-pointer on the ensuing possession, Crystal Hicks was fouled and sank both ends of a one-and-one, as Union Pines regained its edge. With 30 seconds to play and the score tied at 37-all, Crystal Hicks was called for her fifth foul, on what looked to be a jump ball, and she was relegated to the role of spectator on the bench.
Fox connected on both shots at the line to give the Cavs a 39-37 lead, but Union Pines answered back when Tiffany Hicks fed Ross down low for the neutralizer at the 14-second mark. Ross then made a steal in the closing seconds and had a chance to win the game for Union Pines, but her layup attempt rolled off the front of the rim. Hicks was there to collect the rebound and passed it out to Alex Parris for a final-second shot that just missed long as the contest went to a second overtime.
In the final extra frame, Sumpter made her third trey of the game to give the Cavs a 43-40 lead early. On the Vikings ensuing possession, sophomore Lexie Coxe drilled in an answer with a long ball of her own after catching an assist from McCrimmon.
After Southern Lee grabbed a one-point edge at the line, Ross scored when Hicks found her down low after a steal. The basket gave the Vikes their last lead at 45-44 with 1:45 remaining on the clock. It was also the final one for Ross, who scored 14 after the first half, including six in the two combined extra frames and five in the fourth period.
From there a Fox steal led to a go-ahead bucket for the Cavs, as Sumpter sank a jumper to give Southern Lee a 46-45 edge at the 1:11 mark. Sumpter had eight points in the two overtimes, who finished with a game-high 17.
Fox also had a huge second half for Southern Lee. After going scoreless through three periods she scored 13 points down the stretch, finishing with 14 rebounds, seven steals, four assists and three blocks.
With 11 seconds remaining and Union Pines down 47-45, Fox made a game-breaking steal and scored the last bucket on a breakaway layup at the buzzer to bring the thriller to a close.
“Most every time we come to this gym to play Southern Lee they are barnburners,” Lewkowicz said, “and tonight was the same story. Throughout the first half we were kind of in mud — there is no doubt about it — we weren’t moving. Fortunately we were only down by nine points at the intermission due to our strong defensive effort as a team.”
The Viking defense maintained its high level of play as the second half resumed. Union Pines limited Southern Lee to one field goal in the third period.
“Despite playing with what was probably a broken nose, Crystal stepped up and made some huge baskets,” Lewkowicz said, “and the team rallied around her after that, as the shots finally starting falling. As a team the girls shot with much more confidence. We also did a much better job of spacing our offense out against the 2-3 zone in the second half and got the ball inside some to Tyler (Ross.)
Hicks was struck during a collision under the basket early in the game. Reports indicate she made a trip to the hospital for treatment to the injury that left visible bruising, swelling and a large bump on the upper part of the bridge on her nose.
“I want to make sure to applaud my team for giving themselves a chance to win,” said Lewkowicz, “because they fought back and got us those chances. I really thought we were going to get this one, but Southern Lee was picked as the favorite this preseason by the coaches and they battled us the whole way.”
Ross finished with 16 points. The 5-foot-10 junior, who was coming off a monster triple-double in her Wednesday outing at Gray’s Creek, also had 15 rebounds, eight steals, three assists and three blocks. Tiffany Hicks finished with nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals to go along with two points.
Union Pines (5-2) fell to 2-1 in CFVC action with the loss, while Southern Lee (7-1) improved it league mark to 3-0. The Vikings do not return to action until after Christmas, when they play in the Chatlee Holiday Tournament in Sanford starting on Dec. 27 at Lee County High School.
Union Pines 5 3 7 18 6 6 — 45
Southern Lee 9 8 2 14 6 10 — 49
Union Pines: C. Hicks 5 3-4 16, Ross 6 4-8 16, McCrimmon 2 1-4 6, Coxe 1 0-1 3, T. Hicks 1 0-0 2, Parris 1 0-0 2, Carr 0 0-2 0. Totals 16 8-19 45.
Southern Lee: Sumpter 6 2-2 17, Fox 3 7-13 13, Jenkins 4 0-0 9, Taylor 2 0-0 5, Bunnell 0 3-6 3, Kalkhof 0 2-2 2. Totals 15 14-23 49.
Three-point goals: (UP) 5 (C. Hicks 3, Coxe, McCrimmon); (SL) 5 (Sumpter 3, Jenkins, Taylor).
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