Jets Slow Down Union Pines Girls
The Union Pines Lady Vikings struggled to find any offensive consistency Wednesday in a 37-29 nonconference hoops loss to 2-A Jordan-Matthews.
Although his squad was coming off an uplifting 54-39 winning performance Tuesday on the road against league rival Overhills, head coach John Lewkowicz was not willing to let his Union Pines team off the hook for the lack of execution he witnessed against the Jets on the Vikings’ home floor in Cameron.
“Even though we had a pretty big win the day before, there was lots of incentive for this game,” said Lewkowicz. “We had an unbeaten team coming to our place in what I would like to call a ‘playoff-style’ game.
“Handling ourselves, and taking care of the ball in this type of atmosphere, is something we really have to get better at before postseason time. This one was there for the taking tonight, but we did not grasp the early opportunity to seize control of the game when we had the chance. Instead, as time went on, we let them (Jets) end up taking control.”
Union Pines fell to 13-5 with the loss, while Jordan-Matthews remained unbeaten on the season with the win, improving to l9-0 as the fifth-ranked 2-A team in the state according to the Freeman rankings.
“We struggled tonight, there is no doubt about it,” said Lewkowicz. “One of the main problems we have is penetrating and creating against better defensive teams, especially with some size on the frontline.”
After leading 9-2 through one quarter, Union Pines turned the ball over 11 times in the second frame to score just three points and trail the Jets 15-12 at the break.
Through halftime, the Vikes had committed 18 turnovers against the extended and relentless man-to-man Jet defense, which features a formidable front court trio of 6-foot-2 center Erin Bradshaw, 5-foot-11 small forward Mylia Garner and 5-foot-9 power forward Taylor Paige.
“They (Jets) are a physical team with good size,” Lewkowicz said, “and they play a straight man against you all night, defending the passing lanes pretty well so they were able to knock us off our rhythm at times as a result.
“But those are the times that we need to just stay with it, because we were causing many of our own turnovers out there by forcing passes. Instead, we are turning the ball over in bunches at times, which kills our momentum, because you are forced to keep coming back down and play defense.”
Despite tallying 23 turnovers through three periods of play, Union Pines only trailed 23-19 as the game entered the final quarter. Sophomore Lexi Coxe banged in a three on an assist from Tyler Ross that put the Vikes in front 26-25 at the 3:14 mark.
The Jets responded with three quick buckets to grab a five-point lead, but a steal and swish from downtown on a trey by senior captain Crystal Hicks cut the margin to 31-29 at the 1:43 mark. However, Jordan-Matthews answered in less than 10 seconds, with another quick bucket, as a drive down the right baseline by Garner pushed the lead to 33-29
From there a turnover by the Vikings with 1:28 left in the tilt proved to be too much, as Union Pines, which only had two team fouls, had to waste nearly 50 seconds to send the Jets to the line.
“When you are turning the ball over as much as we did in this game, you are having to play too much defense,” Lewkowicz said. “I feel like it took its toll on us down the stretch as the Jets scored several easy baskets there in the final three or so minutes.”
Garner, who finished with a game-high 17 points, scored three straight times down the court in the decisive closing minutes of the contest. She also collected 11 boards for a double-double to go along with three assists, three blocks and two steals. Jet guard Aquilla Mateen joined her in double digits with 10 points to go with six assists, six rebounds and two steals.
Tiffany Hicks led the Vikes in scoring on the night with 10 points, along with 15 rebounds. C. Hick finished with nine points, eight boards, four assists and two steals, while her fellow co-captain, junior Tyler Ross, had a seven-game double-double streak come to an end. The 5-foot-10 forward finished the night with seven points and 19 rebounds. She has had a double-double performance in all but two of the Vikings’ 18 games this season.
Ross led the Vikings with 22 points and 19 points in their win against Overhills Tuesday. The league victory helped Union Pines shore up its strong hold on second place in the 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference standings with a league mark of 7-1, one-half game behind first-place Southern Lee (14-2, 7-0 CFVC)
C. Hicks finished Tuesday’s game with 16 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and four assists, while her younger sister, Tiffany, finished with 12 points and nine boards.
Union Pines returns to CFVC action tonight at 6 p.m. against the Gray’s Creek Bears (2-11, 0-6) at Bob Ward Gymnasium in Cameron.
Jordan-Matthews 2 13 8 14 — 37
Union Pines 9 3 7 10 — 29
Jordan-Matthews: Garner 8 1-2 17, Mateen 4 2-5 10, Bristow 3 0-0 6, Paige 1 0-2 2, Poe 1 0-0 2; Dones 0 0-1 0. Totals 17 3-9 37.
Union Pines: T. Hicks 3 4-5 10, C. Hicks 3 2-4 9, Ross 3 1-2 7, Coxe 1 0-0 3. Totals 10 7-11 29.
Three-point goals: JM 0 ; UP 2 (C. Hicks, Coxe).
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