Lady Vikings Spring Upset on Cavs
The Union Pines Lady Vikings basketball team seems to have hit its stride.
Led by a 21-point performance from freshman Stephanie Johnson, the Vikings picked up an upset win Tuesday in Sanford, topping second-place Southern Lee 35-27 in league action.
While it was the homestanding Lady Cavaliers that entered the tilt with a 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference record of 7-1, Union Pines proved to be the superior team on the court.
Through a disciplined effort defensively and a dynamic showing down low from the front court duo of 6-foot forward Tiffany Hicks and 5-10 center Johnson, the Vikes discarded Southern Lee with relative ease. As a result Union Pines improved to 6-4 in league action and 10-11 overall on the season, after picking up the critical conference victory.
“Tonight was our biggest win all year,” said Union Pines head coach John Lewkowicz after his squad’s victory. “We wanted to get the ball inside on offense, and we did that pretty well and were able to keep a nice working margin.”
Johnson scored six points, made three steals and doled out an assist in the first quarter to help the Vikings to a 10-3 lead. Through halftime the freshman had 14 points as Union Pines led 20-9.
Meanwhile in her fourth game of the season — returning from a knee injury — Hicks showed some versatility in the post. By intermission she had four points, three rebounds, two blocks, two assists and a steal. The junior power forward added three more rebounds, two assists and two points in the third quarter to help Union Pines carry a 26-16 lead into the final period.
“I felt like since we came out strong in this one that we would stay on top if we had focus and we did,” said Hicks. “It felt good to come out there and get some revenge by showing them that we were better than how we finished the first game (against Southern Lee).”
In that first CFVC game Union Pines held a 17-13 lead at halftime back in early January only to fall by a final of 38-37 to the Cavs on its home floor in Cameron. Hicks was not a part of that tilt, but played a huge role in the rematch, finishing with 10 rebounds, five assists, two blocks, two steals and six points Tuesday night.
Of those assists, four went to Johnson for buckets in the paint. The freshman phenom finished with nine field goals.
Johnson’s eighth basket from the field came on a putback that gave Union Pines a 30-19 lead with 4:35 left to play in the fourth quarter. Then, in a fitting end, Johnson scored a layup at the buzzer after a defensive board and outlet pass from Hicks to bring the contest to its final tally.
“We all came in here tonight with the drive to win, and that helped us out on the court,” said Johnson. “That drive helped pump us up on our defense and offense and fight as a team. It feels real good to be able to help my team get a win in my first trip as a Viking to this gym at Southern Lee — especially knowing that we needed this win to keep pace in our conference.”
Johnson had a monster night with eight rebounds, five steals, three blocks and two assists on top of her game-high 21 points.
As a team Union Pines tallied 15 steals, forced 21 turnovers and held Southern Lee to a field-goal percentage of 18 on the night.
Lewkowicz discussed the importance of his team’s play defensively against Southern Lee in detail during his post-game comments.
“I was real proud of our girls. They played great ‘D,’” Lewkowicz said, “and I thought our bigs did a great job. Tiffany and Stephanie worked phenomenally well as a unit down there for not having played much together this season.
“Our goal as a unit on defense was not to allow their point guard Brianna Taylor to penetrate — so no penetration and we also did not wanttheir two guards (Deshele) Sumpter and (Erin) Pickens sitting out on the wings for open threes. So we wanted to force the ball out wide where we were prepared to cover it.”
The strategy worked as Taylor was limited to three points and three assists with six turnovers, while Southern Lee made one-of-16 attempts from behind the arc.
Union Pines is tied for third place in the conference standings with Westover (13-8 overall, 6-4 CFVC), as it hosts last-place Western Harnett (1-18, 1-9) for senior night and hall of fame night at Bob Ward Gym in Cameron at 6 p.m. tonight.
Union Pines 10 10 6 9 — 35
Southern Lee 3 6 7 11 — 27
Union Pines: Johnson 9 3-4 21, Hicks 3 0-1 6, M. Smith 2 0-3, R. Breasseale 1 0-0 2, D. McCrimmon 1 0-2. Totals 16 3-10 35.
Southern Lee: Owens 3 4-9 10, E. Pickens 2 0-0 4, Wilson 1 1-2 3, B. Taylor 1 0-2 3, J. McIver 1 1-4 3, D. Sumpter 1 1-2 3, T. Boykin 0 1-2 1. Totals 9 8-21 27.
Three-point goals: UP none; SL 1 (Taylor).
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