Lady Vikings Capture CFVC Tournament Title
The Union Pines girls’ basketball team was crowned the 2011 Cape Fear Valley Conference basketball tournament champions Friday in Lillington after using a true team effort to collect a 63-51 victory over Western Harnett.
“All year these girls have got things done as a team,” Lewkowicz said, “They are playing extremely hard and have done everything we have asked them to do — this is the culmination of all that hard work and I could not be more proud as a coach.”
Playing as the second seed in a hostile environment against top-seed West-ern Harnett (19-6), the Lady Vikings seized control of the championship contest midway through the second period. Effectively moving the ball well on offense, while dominating the defensive boards, the Vikings built a 28-17 lead with four minutes remaining in the opening half.
At intermission, Union Pines led 32-21 having effectively disrupted the Lady Eagles offensive rhythm despite playing on Western’s home floor. Senior captain Tyesha McLean led the Vike charge with a an 11-point, five-assist first half performance, while junior captain Crystal Hicks had five points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
As the second half commenced, Union Pines continued to forge ahead. A pass from McLean led to a transition bucket by Cristina Morcom stretching the margin to 39-23. McLean later sank a jumper after making a steal to push the score to 45-27 as the Vikes seemed poised to turn the contest into a rout.
But the Eagles stayed within striking distance, closing the frame with a 6-2 run, including a three-pointer at the buzzer by two-time CFVC player of the year Ariel Bursey that cut the Vike lead to 47-33.
Morcom made another clutch bucket in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter to push the margin to 49-33. Sophomore Tyler Ross swished a jumper on a dish from Hicks making the score 51-36 with 6:32 left on the clock.
Then the tide of the title tilt abruptly changed for the Vikings. Union Pines' senior backcourt duo of McLean and Tashi Whitney both fouled out in a 17-second span, with the score 52-39 and 5:40 remaining in regulation.
With his two primary ball handlers and top defenders disqualified, Lewkowicz opted to employ a box-and-one half court defensive set for the remainder of the game with Ross shadowing Bursey.
Union Pines relied primarily on Hicks and Ross to handle the ball against the Eagles’ high-pressure extended full court press, along with the help of reserve guards Kelly Campbell and Alex Parris.
Hicks hit Morcom for a bucket down low which made the score 54-41 at the midway point of the final quarter. After Union Pines missed three straight free throws, Hicks then came up with an offensive board and put back bucket as she was fouled. She sank the ensuing free throw for a three-point play the hard way to give Union Pines a 57-43 cushion with 2:42 left on the clock. Lewkowicz described the play by Hicks as “the back breaker.”
“It all came down grabbing defensive rebounds” Lewkowicz said, “which we did, and making big baskets at the right time — Crystal’s follow-up was huge.”
Hicks finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two steals in the game to notch her second straight double-double performance of the tournament. In the Vikings’ Wednesday semifinal victory against Southern Lee she had 13 points, 18 rebound, four assists and three steals.
“It was very nerve racking when both Tashi and Tyesha fouled out,” Hicks said, “but I knew as a captain I had to step up and pull it out. Alex and Kelly really did a great job for us and Tyler stayed on Bursey the whole time applying solid pressure which was a key.”
Along with holding Bursey to six points from the field in the final five-plus minutes of the game, Ross also racked up her second straight double-double finishing with 10 points, 12 rebounds and three steals.
Bursey entered the championship game averaging 23.1 points and 9.6 rebounds this season for Western. The senior guard finished with 21 points — scoring 18 in the second half — along with eight boards.
The tournament title was the first for four-year starting point guard and senior Vike captain McLean who had 17 points, seven assist, four rebounds and two steals when she was whistled for her fifth foul on a called charge.
“It feels very good to win this championship,” said McLean. “Even though I fouled out, my team kept their heads in the game and we came out on top. With five seniors we want to come out strong in the playoffs, so this gives us a really big boost.”
Senior center Morcom had a solid all-round performance for Union Pines, playing nearly the entire 32 minutes. She scored a big 13 points along with six rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
“Winning this championship feels awesome,” Morcom said, “because we really work hard every single day and come in for so many morning practices. So it just feels great that we were able to come in as a team and pull this one out even with our great guard duo fouling out.”
Union Pines enters the NCHSAA 3-A state playoffs as the defending section 4 champions and the second seed from the CFVC. The Vikings opening round game is set for Monday at 7 p.m. against Southern Guilford (12-11, Mid-Piedmont 3-seed) at Bob Ward Gymnasium in Cameron.
Contact F.W. Manning II at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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