Viking Girls Use Defense to Get Win
The Union Pines Lady Vikings got strong bench support from Rachel Breasseale and Samantha Ring Friday in Hope Mills en route to a 48-29 league hoops win against Gray’s Creek.
Ring, a freshman small forward, had eight points, three steals and three rebounds, while sophomore wing Breasseale scored nine points and made three steals in the 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference road victory.
With the win, which came after a tough Tuesday league loss at home to first-place Overhills, Union Pines moved to 4-4 in league action and 8-10 overall on the season.
“The key tonight was our play defensively,” said Viking head coach John Lewkowicz. “We went 80-percent defense and 20-percent offense yesterday (Thursday) in practice. Right now it is about intensity with a prime emphasis on defense. As a team we wanted to bring high intensity onto the court by playing great defense and let that carry over to our offense.”
Union Pines did just that in the first half of action to capture a 24-6 lead at intermission. The Vikes forced Gray’s Creek to turn the ball over eight times in the opening quarter in taking a 16-2 lead. By halftime Union Pines had forced 17 turnovers and tallied 11 steals.
“I think that was probably about as good of defense as we have played all year in the first half,” Lewkowicz said, “and everybody was hustling after the ball.”
On the night the Vikings would finish with 20 steals, led by junior captain Lexie Coxe with five. The front court duo of freshman center Stephanie Johnson and junior forward Tiffany Hicks each had three steals in the game and each also had two blocks apiece.
Breasseale entered Friday’s tilt with 16 total points on the season as she tied her previous career-high of four points in the first half. After the game she spoke about confidence and chemistry.
“I am really happy with what we did tonight as a team,” said Breasseale. “I think we all came together when we needed to and were able to carry our good play from the first half over to the second. That was something we had not being doing of late, but Coach L (Lewkowicz) gave us a good talk in the locker room and we came out strong.
“We needed to get this win tonight to gather momentum to try and make it to the state playoffs. Individually I am starting to become more comfortable on the court and it has helped me contribute more in many ways and help my team. At this point of the season we all know each other’s strengths and tendencies so much better. Also with my shot I am shooting it with more belief than before — I feel it now.”
During his post-game comments Lewkowicz took time to discuss both Breasseale and Ring and how they have fit into Union Pines’ success as younger players.
“It is very important for players like Samantha (Ring) and Rachel (Breasseale) to get into these games, learn what it is like to play when it’s intense and be able to be a big part of our team down the stretch,” he said. “We still have a third of the season remaining and now all these girls have to step up.”
The Vikings feature five underclassmen in Lewkowicz’s primary nine-man rotation, including starters Johnson, sophomore power forward Charlotte Holder and freshman point guard MaRisa Smith.
“Rachel is athletic — she is a high jumper for our track team — and she is very quick,” said Lewkowicz. “We have been working all season with her on confidence and on how to harness that quickness in ways to be most effective out on the court. When she is playing with confidence she has some nice skills. She runs the floor [really] well and can do a lot of positive things. That confidence has been building for Rachel and as a result she is getting better and her minutes have gone up because she is helping us.
“Sam (Ring) is a young 14-year-old heady player who is very smart out on the court, especially considering she is a freshman. She has a pure shooting stroke and does things instinctively that are tough for many players to grasp. She has a great understanding of the game and what we want to do with the ball on offense and how we want to cut off angles on defense. She just has great vision and awareness.”
Gray’s Creek (3-14, 2-6 CFVC) was led on the night by junior wing Jayln Taylor with a game-high 12 points, on top of eight rebounds and four steals.
Johnson tallied 10 points to lead the Vikings in scoring. In her second game of the season — back from a knee injury — Hicks had a team-high seven rebounds along with three points and four assists.
Union Pines entered the weekend tied with Westover (11-8, 4-4) for third place in the CFVC standings. Overhills (10-9 overall) occupies the top spot with a league mark of 8-0, followed by second-place Southern Lee (10-9, 7-1). Gray’s Creek moved to fifth place with loss, while Western Harnett (1-15) and Douglas Byrd (1-14) are tied at the bottom of the standings, each with records of 1-6 in conference competition.
The Vikes return to CFVC action Monday in Cameron, when they host the sixth-place Douglas Byrd Eagles at 6 p.m.
Union Pines 16 8 12 12 — 48
Gray’s Creek 2 4 11 12 — 29
Union Pines: Johnson 4 2-3 10, Breasseale 4 1-2 9, Ring 2 4-4 8, Smith 3 0-1 7, C. Evans 1 4-6 6, Hicks 1 1-4 3, B. Daley 1 0-0 3, Coxe 0 1-2 1, Holder 0 1-2 1. Totals 16 14-24 48.
Gray’s Creek: Taylor 5 2-6 12, B. Torre 3 0-0 6, K. Black 2 0-1 4, T. Williams 1 1-1 3, D. Wade 1 0-0 2, K. William 1 0-0 2. Totals 13 3-8 29.
Three-point goals: Union Pines 2 (Coxe, Daley); Gray’s Creek none.
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