Asheboro Ends Lady Vikes' Season
In the end the Union Pines girls’ basketball team simply ran out of gas.
The Lady Vikings’ season came to an end Wednesday in Asheboro, where they dropped a decisive 65-50 decision to the homestanding Lady Blue Comets in the second round of the NCHSAA state 3-A playoffs.
Featuring a seven- to eight-man rotation — at best — over the course of a season that saw its top-three starters play a vast majority of the available minutes, Mideast fifth seed Union Pines (20-8) was clearly battle- weary as it took the floor for the second-round contest. Further complicating matters was the void left by sometime-starting Vike senior guard Alex Parris, who missed her second straight game on Wednesday.
Conversely, the fourth-seeded Blue Comets (21-6) took the floor for the tip-off with a jump to their step and a solid nine-man rotation. After falling behind 3-0 on a banked-in trey from Vike junior Dasia McCrimmon, the home team responded with a resounding 13-point run to take a 13-3 lead at the 3:40 mark and force Union Pines coach John Lewkowicz to call a timeout.
Ultimately the surge left the Vikings in too big a hole to ever climb out of, as they never truly threatened the Comets in the tilt.
After the timeout, Asheboro continued to forge ahead by scoring with ease in transition and giving the Viking offense fits via a disciplined, pack-it-in 2-3 zone on defense. Through one quarter of action the home team held a 20-8 advantage, as Blue Comet senior point guard Jessica Tinnin tallied five assists in the frame and fellow senior Tierra Lester scored seven points from the power forward position.
As play moved to the second quarter, the Vikings continued to struggle on offense against the 2-3 zone, settling primary for three-point shots. The result was a surge led by Tinnin, along with fellow Blue Comet seniors Abigail Bullins and 5-foot-11 Kenyatta Robertson, which gave the home squad a 28-13 lead at the 4:27 mark.
Asheboro maintained the 15-point margin at halftime, scoring eight of its final 10 second-quarter points in transition to hold a 38-23 lead at the break.
Union Pines played just six players in the first half, with senior captain Crystal Hicks and junior captain Tyler Ross, along with sophomores Tiffany Hicks and Lexie Coxe, logging the maximum allotted 16 minutes of court time.
In contrast, each of Asheboro’s five senior starters was able to take at least one breather on the bench as nine Blue Comets saw action in the half. Overall, six of those players scored in the opening two frames for Asheboro, led by an 11-point showing from Bullins. Lester finished with nine points in the half, and Tinnin had nine assists and four rebounds while serving as the motor behind Asheboro’s highly efficient attack in transition.
C. Hicks and T. Hicks each had five points at intermission to pace the Vikings.
Union Pines continued to battle as action resumed in the second half. The Vikings scored 21 points in the frame, four times cutting the deficit to 11 points. Still, Asheboro answered the call each time.
A deep trey from Robertson on an assist from Bullins pushed the lead back to 14 at the 3:39 mark. On their next trip down Bullins banged in a bomb of her own, on a pass from Tinnin, to give Asheboro a 50-35 lead at the 3:02 mark of the frame. By quarter’s end the home team led 58-44.
In the final quarter, Asheboro was able to take up to two-minute chunks off the clock at a time, utilizing a combination of strong backcourt play and timely offensive rebounding to secure victory.
With 4:48 left in the contest, C. Hicks went down hard, with her right knee smashing into the floor. Already hobbled by a painful left-knee injury, the three-year captain and four-year starter was clearly in pain — both emotionally and physically — as she was helped off the court in what was the end of a memorable career.
By the 2:52 mark Asheboro scored on a pass from Tinnin to Lester to go up by 18, making the remainder of the game a formality.
Bullins turned-in a game high 18 points for the Blue Comets, who advanced to today’s sectional final round to face Mideast top-seed Chapel Hill (26-2). Robertson (15) and Lester (13) also scored in double-digits, while Tinnin tallied 14 assists, seven rebounds, three steals and two points.
T. Hicks led the Vikings with 12 points, while C. Hick and Ross each had 10 to join the 6-foot-1 center in double-digits.
Lewkowicz reflected back on the second-round loss and his team’s season as a whole in his postgame comments.
“Asheboro is a senior-dominated, very experienced team,” he said. “They have been through the playoffs before, and their guards are very good and very quick. Tonight they were really clicking in transition, and we just did not get back and they burned us. Then later on, whenever we cut into their lead, Asheboro just couldn’t miss.
“The heart was there for us tonight but we just did not have the overall speed to combat that quickness, especially from their guards. We shot the ball well. It was just that they had everybody shooting tremendously well.
“Overall I am very pleased with the season on a whole. We lost all of our guards to graduation, so Crystal had to come out and play the point. We battled for a regular-season league title and conference tournament title, and finished up 20-8, which is pretty good.”
The loss snapped a two-season string of eastern regional semifinal appearances for Union Pines.
Along with C. Hicks, it was the final game in the career of Viking seniors Chantele Carr and Amanda McCoy.
Union Pines 8 15 21 6 — 50
Asheboro 20 18 20 7 — 65
Union Pines: T. Hicks 4 2-2 12, C. Hicks 4 0-2 10, Ross 4 2-4 10, McCrimmon 3 0-0 9, Coxe 2 0-0 4, Daley 1 0-0 3, Carr 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 4-8 50.
Asheboro: Bullins 8 0-1 18, Robertson 7 0-0 15, Lester 6 1-3 13, Thompson 4 1-2 9, 2 0-0 4, King1 0-0 3, Tinnin 1 0-0 2, Letterlough 0 1-21, Trogdon 0 0-1 0. Totals 29 3-8 65.
Three-point goals: UP 8 (McCrimmon 3, C. Hicks 2, T. Hicks 2, Daley); A 3 (Bullins 2, Robertson).
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