Vikings Get Win in Thriller
A three-point play the old-fashioned way by senior captain Matthew Maness proved to be the difference maker Friday in Cameron as Union Pines came away with a thrilling hoops win on the hardwood.
The 73-70 nonconference victory over the East Montgomery Eagles was the third straight for Union Pines, which moved to 3-1 on the young season.
Maness finished with a team-high 16 points for the 3-A Vikings, including scoring the final five points of the contest.
The game-winning bucket came on a free throw by the shooting guard, capping off a pivotal and-one with 30.3 seconds left in the final quarter to give Union Pines a 71-68 lead.
Late in the fourth quarter of a ballgame that had been nip-and-tuck from the tip, Maness was able to come up with a skillful steal after applying steady man pressure near midcourt on an Eagle ball-handler while East Montgomery was in its half-court offense.
Upon procuring the pill, Maness made a mad dash down the court where he converted a layup to bring the energetic home crowd to its feet in an ecstatic, deafening frenzy of delight. In the process of making the basket Maness was fouled. His ensuing free throw then swished through the bottom of the net to complete the three-point play and provide the eventual game-winning bucket.
“It was crazy,” said Maness of his heroics. “In our last timeout before that play coach (Nick) Boney told us we needed one solid possession on defense — one solid possession on defense.
“All season long coach Boney has been stressing senior leadership so I took it upon myself to play the best defense I could. Luckily, I got a steal, went down and got an and-one, made the free throw and put my team in a position to win the game.”
Throughout the night 1-A East Montgomery (1-3) seemed to answer with a big bucket each time it needed one to keep the tilt a tight one. On their ensuing possession swingman Ahmad Baldwin drove to the basket drawing contact to earn a trip to the line where he sank two free throws and cut the Vike lead to 71-70.
Forced to foul, East Montgomery eventually sent Maness to the charity stripe for a one-and one situation. Both shots found the bottom of the net, bringing the game to its final tally of 73-70 with 14.5 ticks left on the clock. The Eagles did get off a shot from the field near the buzzer that would have counted had it dropped, but the ball clanged off the front of the rim as Bob Ward Gymnasium erupted in celebration of a hard-fought victory for the Vikings.
After the game Boney spoke highly of his team’s ability and determination to keep battling in a contest that was close the whole way. Union Pines’ biggest lead of the night was four points — twice — at 18-14 early and 68-64 with 2:33 left in the final quarter. The Eagles biggest lead was 29-21 at the 5:10 mark of the second quarter. Overall, the tilt featured 18 lead changes and nine ties.
“I am proud of the guys for the way they fought throughout and pulled the game out in the end,” said Boney. “It was a tough game. East Montgomery did a really good job on their defensive schemes in forcing us to do some things we didn’t want to do and weren’t comfortable doing.
“But our guys were able to settle down, pass the ball around for good looks at the basket and work together to pull out this victory.”
On top of being a nip-and-tuck contest from start to finish, the game also featured quite an array of made field goals from behind the three-point arc. Union Pines finished with a total of 10 treys while the Eagles dropped eight shots from downtown.
Maness, Armani McCoy and Tyler Packer all finished with three treys apiece for the Vikings. East Montgomery had six different shooters connect from deep.
Pacing the Eagles on the night was Baldwin with a game-high 17 points along with eight rebounds, six assists and two blocks. Power forward Christopher Robinson tallied 16 points and nine rebounds for East Montgomery. Eagle small forward Bralen Morrison also hit double digits, scoring 10 points.
Maness added five assists and three steals to his team-high 16 points and was joined in double figures by sophomore point guard Tyler Packer (14) and sophomore wing Armani McCoy (11). Packer sank three treys, as did Maness and McCoy, and also finished with five rebounds and six assists. As a team the Vikes finished with 22 assists on the night.
The victory was the second of the season for Union Pines over East Montgomery, with the first win coming over the Eagles by a 59-53 margin in Biscoe. The Vikings return to action Tuesday in Fayetteville against non-league foe 4-A Terry Sanford at 7:30 p.m.
E. Montgomery 19 22 13 16 — 70
Union Pines 19 21 16 17 — 73
East Montgomery: Baldwin 6 3-6 17, Robinson 8 0-1 16, Morrison 4 1-2 10, B. Reza 2 1-1 9, I. Scott 3 0-0 7, J. Pegues 1 2-2 5, A. Lancaster 1 1-2 3, C. Smith 1 0-0 3. Totals - 27 8-14 70.
Union Pines: Maness 4 5-5 16, Packer 4 3-6 14, McCoy 3 2-2 11, L. Davis 3 3-3 9, D, Williams 4 1-2 9. M. Quick 1 3-4 6, J. Thompson 2 0-0 4, D. Carlyle 1 0-0 2, S. McRae 1 0-0 2. Totals - 23 17-22 73.
Three-point goals: East Montgomery 8 (Baldwin 2, Reza 2, Morrison, Reza, Scott, Pegues); Union Pines 10 (Maness 3, Packer 3, McCoy 3, Quick).
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