Vikings Shock Cavaliers
The Union Pines boys pulled off a mini-upset Tuesday in league hoops action, grabbing a 62-51 signature win over five-time defending 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference champion Southern Lee in Cameron.
The victory was the Vikings’ fourth straight as they improved to 12-9 on the season and 6-4 in league play to remain in sole possession of third place in the CFVC standings. It was second-year head coach Nick Boney’s first win over the Cavs in his career at Union Pines, and marked the first time in more than four years the Vikings earned a victory against Southern Lee on the hardwood.
“The effort I have seen out of my team over the past three weeks has been tremendous,” Boney said, “and I am so proud of these guys. In practice, you can really see the focus each time we take the court, and that focus has been transferring over into the games.
“Like tonight, even though they made a few mistakes, as a unit they did a great job listening to me correcting some things, and they continued to play. They stayed in the game mentally and from an intensity standpoint throughout. I am really proud of them for that.”
Paced by a 12-point first half from junior forward Braxton Ross, the Vikings took a slim 31-29 lead at intermission.
“Coming into this game, Coach (Boney) told us this was a really important one on the remaining schedule,” said Ross. “It was a big win because we are trying to get to the playoffs and also because of our opponent. Now we are just looking forward to Friday’s game, and we should keep winning.”
Through three quarters of play, Tuesday’s tilt was knotted up at 41-all.
Back-to-back bombs from Matthew Maness sparked a game-breaking Union Pines surge, as the Vikings outscored Southern Lee 17-5 in the final 2:48 of the contest.
His first trey gave the Vikes a 47-46 lead with 3:30 remaining on the clock. The junior point guard’s second long ball again put Union Pines ahead, by a 50-48 margin, at the 2:39 mark.
From there, the Cavs soon claimed their final lead of the game, as senior point guard Ace Chalmers made three of four shots from the charity stripe to give his squad a 51-50 edge with two minutes left.
Down the stretch Union Pines proved ready and able to answer the challenge, responding with a 12-point run to close the game out in style.
After the victory, Maness was on cloud nine.
“Oh, my goodness, this is the best feeling,” said Maness. “Since I have been playing here at Union Pines we have never beaten Southern Lee, and I am pretty sure they have been our conference champions for the last five or six years in a row. So to take them down, on our home court in front of one of the biggest crowds I have seen in here in a while, is just the best feeling.
“Coach Boney and I hugged after the game, and I almost teared up. This helps us as far as (making the) state playoffs, it helps us with the conference ranking, but moreover it just feels good to win this game, because it shows how far we have come as a team.”
Union Pines went 6-19 last the season and finished sixth in the final CFVC standings with a league mark of 3-9. With six wins in league play this season, and 12 overall, the Vikings have accomplished their goal of turning things around on the court.
Meanwhile, the team edges closer and closer to its primary goal of earning a postseason berth, as only two CFVC league games remain on the regular-season schedule.
Boney feels the biggest difference in this Viking team — which features seven returners in its eight-man rotation — and the one from a season ago is confidence.
“They are truly believing in themselves this season,” Boney said, “as well as believing in each other and trusting each other. That is where you see the extra pass for a better shot versus a guy forcing up a tougher one (shot). That confidence also comes from maturity and lots of practice time.
“Another place that confidence comes from is a desire to improve and the realization that they can compete as long as they play the game the right way — the way we practice — focusing on fundamentals, a game plan and playing as a team.
“Then you get a win like this over a really good basketball team with a super tradition like Southern Lee, and it is just huge.”
The loss was the second straight for second-place Southern Lee (13-6, 8-2) in league play. Head coach Gaston Collins and the Cavaliers dropped their first CFVC contest of the season last Friday by a 50-46 margin against first-place Westover in Sanford.
“After the game I told my guys to remember how this (loss) feels,” said Collins, “because it is not a good feeling. At the same time, they have to have a short-term memory because we have to pick up tomorrow and play our cross-town rival in Lee County High School.
“I have to give Union Pines a ton of credit. They played us tough. As a team, we were not too sharp defensively, but still managed to be right there, with the score tied going into the fourth quarter. Just down the stretch we were not able to execute.
“Coach Boney had a great game plan tonight, his players executed well out of their zone defense, and we were not hitting our shots. On offense we settled for too many long jumpers instead of getting to the foul line but, again, the Vikings’ play had a lot to do with that.”
With a 71-51 conference win over Gray’s Creek (6-12, 2-7) Tuesday, the Westover Wolverines (14-6) remained atop the CFVC standings with a league mark of 9-1.
Josh Mellette led the Cavaliers with a 17-point, 14-rebound double-double and tallied a game-high five blocks. Chalmers also hit double figures in scoring with 12 points.
Ross led all scorers on the night with 21, to go along with 11 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Maness made five three-point buckets on his way to scoring 17 for Union Pines.
He also had seven assists, while Lashun Brower finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Parris Manning added nine points, six assists and three steals for the home team.
Union Pines returns to league action tonight in Lillington against the Western Harnett Eagles (8-13, 3-6) at 7:30 p.m. On Tuesday, the Eagles dropped a 77-69 league decision to fourth-place Douglas Byrd (6-11, 4-5) in CFVC action.
Southern Lee 14 15 12 10 — 51
Union Pines 16 15 10 21 — 62
Southern Lee: Mellette 7 2-4 17, Chalmers 1 9-10 12, Jackson 2 2-2 6, Locust 2 2-3 6, Ingram 2 0-0 5 Lee 2 0-0 5. Totals 16 15-19 51.
Union Pines: Ross 10 1-3 21, Maness 5 2-2 17, Brower 4 4-4 13, Manning 3 1-2 9, Davis 1 0-0 2. Totals 23 8-11 62.
Three-point goals: SL 4 (Mellette, Chalmers, Lee, Ingram); UP 8 (Maness 5, Manning 2 Brower).
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