Viking Girls Clinch Third in Conference
The Union Pines girls’ basketball team needed a victory against Westover Thursday in Fayetteville to finish third in the league standings and clinch a berth in the 3-A state playoffs.
A victory is just what the visiting Lady Vikes got as they stretched their current winning streak to five games.
With the 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference win, Union Pines closed the regular season with an overall mark of 12-11 and a league record of 8-4.
Things started rough for Union Pines as the Lady Wolverines roared out to an 11-0 lead. Using a full-court press Westover (14-9, 7-5 CFVC) forced the Vikings to turn the ball over 12 times in the first period. In the half court the Wolverines used an efficient zone-busting inside-out offense to grab a 13-2 lead with 4:15 remaining in the opening period.
Despite forcing six more Vike turnovers in the quarter, Westover was unable to build on its edge. The home team went scoreless in the final 4:15, missing several close-range tries from the field in transition.
Meanwhile Union Pines got six points on baskets from 6-foot junior forward Tiffany Hicks, 5-11 freshman center Stephanie Johnson and 5-7 junior captain guard Lexie Coxe. The surge helped suppress the storm in the form of a 6-0 run as the Vikings trailed 13-8 through the first quarter.
“That was a big test for us there in the first quarter,” said Union Pines head coach John Lewkowicz. “We settled down. That was the main thing and I like the way we came back.
“We battled hard and worked to get things to start turning in our direction. I am proud of my girls for the way they kept battling. This is not an easy place to play but they hung in there, did a great job defensively and that allowed us to get right back in the ball game.”
Union Pines trailed 17-10 with 4:50 left after 5-10 sophomore center Kylah Saylon scored twice from the low post for Westover. From there Union Pines closed the period with an 8-1 run featuring three-balls from seniors Bethany Daley and Dasia McCrimmon and an offensive putback by Hicks.
Hicks had six points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal at intermission as the Vikes and Wolverines were dead-locked at 18-all.
“Going into this game was just a challenge we had to accept and get the ‘W,’” said Hicks. “At the beginning we got down a lot but we finally settled down and focused and got our heads in the game.
“We were determined to be third (place) and show we are a better team then everyone expected.”
Both teams went blow-for-blow in a fiercely competitive third quarter.
A three-ball by Hicks tied the game at 21-21 less than 30 seconds into the period. Coxe then sank a trey of her own from way downtown to make it a 25-24 lead for Westover. A three-point play the old-fashion way from sophomore reserve Rachel Breasseale kept the game tight at the 4:14 mark, with the Vikings trailing 28-27.
As play moved to the final frame, the Vikes trailed 30-29. Less than 10 seconds into the period Union Pines took its first lead of the game on a 15-foot jumper by freshman MaRisa Smith.
Smith scored nine of her team-high 11 points in the fourth quarter. With 6:40 left on the clock, she connected on a putback to again give the Vikes a lead at 33-31. Hicks found Smith at the elbow for another 15-foot swish that put Union Pines in front 37-34 at the 4:41 mark. With 3:05 remaining she got a pass from Hicks down low and was fouled. Smith made one of her two shots at the line to give the Vikings a 38-36 edge.
With 2:07 remaining Coxe scorched the net with her second deep three of the half to push the Union Pines lead to 41-38. Smith then made a steal on the Wolverines ensuing possession and converted it into two points on a fast break — pushing Union Pines’ margin to 43-38 at the 1:38 mark.
From there Union Pines managed to maintain control of the tilt to earn the win.
After the game, Coxe spoke about her desire to take big shots when the game is on the line and her two critical second-half three-pointers.
“I knew that we needed to put some points up and I was ready to hit some big shots,” said Coxe. “I had confidence and was determined to make them. It feels really good hitting key shots and I’m glad I could help my team out.
“This win determined if we were in third place and it gives us a little more confidence for the tournament this coming week. The goal for our team is to push through and get this conference (tournament) title. We have had our ups-and-downs. But now it’s time to show people how much we have grown an improved. We are all ready to come out and play hard Monday and get that ‘W.’”
Westover senior point guard Airico Williams put on a dazzling all-around display, finishing with 10 steals, 11 rebounds, seven assists and six points. Sophomore shooting guard Baptiste led the Wolverines in scoring with 15 points and added seven rebounds, five steals and a block to the stat sheet. Saylon had 12 points and seven rebounds for the Wolverines.
Along with her team-high 11 points, Smith had five rebounds, three steals and two assists. Hicks finished with nine points, nine boards and five assists, while Coxe tallied eight points. Johnson helped the Vike cause with seven points, seven rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
The final 2012-2013 CFVC regular season standings are as follows: 1. Overhills (17-5, 12-0); 2. Southern Lee (12-11, 9-3); 3.Union Pines, 4. Westover; 5. Gray’s Creek (4-17, 3-9); 6. Douglas Byrd (2-18, 2-10) and 7. Western Harnett (1-20, 1-11).
As the conference champion, Overhills gets a first-round bye. The winner of the first-round game versus Westover and Gray’s Creek faces Overhills in the second of two semifinals contest in Spring Lake Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
Union Pines hosts Douglas Byrd Monday at 7 p.m. in Cameron. The winner of that tilt takes on the winner of the game between Southern Lee and Western Harnett — contested Monday at 7 p.m. in Sanford — Wednesday at Overhills High School in Spring Lake for the 6 p.m. semifinal.
The CFVC girls’ championship is scheduled to take place at the home of the highest remaining girls’ seed in the tournament at 6 p.m. on Friday.
Union Pines 8 10 11 19 — 48
Westover 13 5 12 12 — 42
Union Pines: Smith 5 1-2 11, Hicks 4 0-4 9, Coxe 3 0-0 8, Johnson 3 1-2 7, S, Ring 1 2-2 4, B. Daley 1 0-0 3, R. Breasseale 1 1-1 3, D. McCrimmon 1 0-0 3. Totals 19 5-11 48.
Westover: Baptiste 4 3-8 15, Saylon 5 2-7 12, Williams 2 1-3 6, A. Husamudeen 1 1-2 3, Q. Jackson 1 1-3, A. Simmons 1 0-0 2, J. Miller 0 1-4 1. Totals 14 9-27 42.
Three-point goals: Union Pines 5 (Coxe 2, Hicks Daley, McCrimmon); Westover 5 (Baptiste 4, Williams).
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