Strong Defense Is Key to Viking Girls' Season
Head coach John Lewkowicz will look to Crystal Hicks and Tyler Ross to lead the Union Pines girls’ basketball team in its 2011-12 roundball campaign, which opens Nov. 28 with a home game at the school’s Bob Ward Gym.
“Crystal will step up as our senior captain,” Lewkowicz said, “and Tyler will fill the junior captain position. Both girls have tremendous, valuable varsity experience in regards to having played on consecutive sectional championship teams.”
Hicks and Ross played vital roles in the Vikes’ overall success last year, including a deep postseason run that saw Union Pines finish 27-4, claim the Cape Fear Valley Conference tournament title, a share of the regular-season league crown and advance to its second consecutive 3-A East region semifinals.
At 5-foot-9, Hicks is a small forward with a silky outside stroke. This will mark her fourth season as a Viking starter. Last season she was a junior captain, along with senior captain point-guard Tyesha McLean. Hicks has been among the team leaders in rebounds and steals in both of her past two seasons.
Ross emerged as a power in the paint her sophomore season and averaged a double-double, scoring 10.1 points and pulling down 11.6 rebounds per contest. The 5-foot-10 power forward was an all-conference selection along with Hicks, and also earned all-district honors.
“We lost two very fast and quick guards in Tyesha and Tashi (Whitney),” said Lewkowitz. “As a result we won’t have the benefit of an experienced point guard and will do more by committee by adjusting how we distribute the ball, as well as setting our offensive and defensive sets. Crystal’s role as a ball handler will be enhanced as a natural step-up on her part and Tyler will see more perimeter play this season.
McLean was the second graduate for the Vikings in as many years to score more than 1,500 points in her career at Union Pines. Alishia Mosley accomplished the feat during her 2009-2010 senior season.
McLean led the team in scoring last season. She was a four-year starter at the point for Lewkowicz. Meanwhile, Whitney was capable of scoring bunches of baskets in flurries, from all over the court, including three-point land, in transition and from the foul line.
The backcourt all-conference tandem was tenacious on defense and caused tons of points off turnovers with steals out of the Vikings regular set, as well as its various full-court press attacks. Down low, the Vikings lost starting senior Cristina Morcom to graduation. Another key senior loss was Kelly Campbell, who gave Union Pines a perimeter shooting threat and solid defense off the bench.
“We did lose some key and valuable seniors from last year,” Lewkowicz said, “but Tiffany Hicks will get the nod to fill the loss of Cristina Morcom, and her role and key minutes off the bench last season will hopefully pay dividends for this season.”
Hicks, a six-foot sophomore post player and Crystal’s sister, began to produce rebounding and scoring in the latter part of the season last year.
“We have five new varsity additions from the jayvee team,” Lewkowicz said, “in Lexie Cox (5-7, sophomore forward) Becca Greene (5-5 junior guard), Courtney Evans (5-8, sophomore post), Reagan Molek (5-8, junior post/forward) and Bethany Daley (5-5, junior guard).
“They are all athletic, and each one brings different elements to the team. As the season progresses their varsity effectiveness should increase as their gamesmanship develops. All five of our newcomers are working hard and learning each practice — they will all contribute this season.”
Other returners for the Vikes from last season include seniors Alex Parris (5-6 guard), Amanda McCoy (5-9 post), Chantele Carr (5-10 post) and junior Dasia McCrimmon (5-7 guard).
“We have a unique situation in that half of the team is experienced and knowledgeable about the success of the past two seasons,” said Lewkowicz. “They know that the bar is set high for the Lady Vikings and the new girls are aware that expectations always rise based on a team’s successes. However, they are also aware that they are a ‘marked’ team.
“As we start the season, this is a team in progress and I feel that it will find its own identity as the season progresses. Building team and game chemistry will be vital if we are to challenge the top teams.”
While some of the faces have changed, the Vikings’ cornerstones for success figure to be the same as they were over the past three-plus seasons
“The girls have been very dedicated and worked hard on their conditioning and early fundamentals,” said Lewkowicz. “Our team philosophy will center once again around establishing a strong, hustling defense.”
Contact F.W. Manning II at firstname.lastname@example.org
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