Lady Vikings Get Win Over Eagles
The Union Pines girls’ basketball team withstood a late charge by Western Harnett Friday evening in Lillington to pick up a critical 48-41 league win.
With 1:32 left to go in the final quarter the homestanding Lady Eagles got a basket on a jumper by Marissa Perez, making it a one-possession contest as the scoreboard read 39-36 in favor of the Lady Vikings.
At the start of the fourth period Union Pines led 32-21 and pushed that margin to 13 points when freshman Samantha Ring scored on a drive at the 7:47 mark. From there Western Harnett used an aggressive offensive attack combined with a high intensity full-court-press defense to claw itself back into the ball game.
Down the stretch Union Pines converted clutch field goals and free throws in the final 92 seconds of the game to preserve the win, snap a three-game losing skid and improve to 3-2 in the 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference standings.
In a direct reply to Perez’s jump shot, freshman Stephanie Johnson scored in transition with 1:19 remaining in the final quarter after receiving a pass from shooting guard Lexie Coxe to push the Vike lead to 41-36.
The Eagles’ Ebonee Gilchrist again trimmed the Union Pines lead to three points by connecting on both ends of a double-bonus chance at the charity stripe making the score 41-38 with 38.3 second left to go in the conference clash.
Again it was Johnson providing the answer, this time sinking both ends of a one-and-one opportunity to give the Vikings a 43-38 lead.
Gilchrist then answered back by beating the entire Union Pines defense on a coast-to-coast surge to the basket for a bucket. After the play the score was 43-40 as Western Harnett coach Richard Seagroves called his final timeout.
When play resumed the Eagles sent Coxe to the line with 20.8 ticks left on the clock for another one-and-one situation. Coxe swished home both chances and Western ran out of answers when it turned the ball over five seconds later.
Western Harnett (0-14, 0-5 CFVC) was forced to promptly foul again, sending Coxe to the charity stripe for yet another one-and-one chance. The senior captain again converted both chances to put the tilt away as the Vikings came through with a hard-fought CFVC league victory on the road.
“We had control of that ballgame but then in the fourth quarter we got a little out of control,” said Union Pines head coach John Lewkowicz. “There is the learning curve right there — we are in control, we have a lead; we have been in a few games like this; and we don’t need to rush.
“That is where we get into trouble as a young team. It occurs when we are in control and feel a need to keep pushing. We have to learn that you don’t always need to push the pedal down. Sometimes it is much more effective to be smarter with the ball and focus on execution. Instead we forced the action and Western got right back into the game.”
The Lady Vikings opened the game with a 9-6 lead through one quarter and pushed that edge to 22-12 at halftime. A back-and-forth third quarter ended with a 6-2 run for Union Pines as it carried a 32-21 lead into the final frame.
Lewkowicz said that his team had done a good job all year of building leads, but has had a tough time maintaining them. In Friday’s tilt he was pleased with the way the team played early to get an edge and also with the way his unit responded when tested to keep that lead and pull out a win.
“It’s all about learning to play with the lead and being under control,” he said. “I think the girls are starting to grasp that aspect more now. At this point of the season we are looking for players that are going to go in there and do the right things at the right time.
“Along with Lexie (Coxe) and Stephanie (Johnson) I felt Rachel Breasseale came in and played really well in transition and gave us energy as a sophomore. Freshman reserve Samantha Ring gave us big minutes on the wing and made some big plays as well, while junior forward Courtney Evans did a terrific job battling and boxing out down low.”
Johnson turned in a commanding 19-point, 15-rebound double-double for Union Pines to go along with five blocks and two steals. Coxe finished with 10 points, went five-for-seven from the foul line and collected five steals.
Overhills (8-5) and Southern Lee (7-7) both picked up league wins Friday to improve to 4-0 in the CFVC and remain tied atop the standings. Union Pines is alone in third place at 3-2, followed by Westover (9-6) in fourth at 2-2. Douglas Byrd (1-11) and Gray’s Creek (2-10) are tied for fifth with league marks of 1-3, while Western is in last place.
Union Pines began a 10-day break from roundball action Saturday because of exams, meaning the Vikes will not return to the floor until Jan. 22 when they entertain Westover in a CFVC clash.
Union Pines 9 13 10 16 — 48
W. Harnett 6 6 9 20 — 41
Union Pines: Johnson 7 5-7 19, Coxe 2 5-7 10, M. Smith 1 2-4 4, Breasseale 2 0-0 4, Ring 2 0-0 4, M. Harris 1 0-0 2, B. Daley 1 0-0 2, C. Holder 0 2-2 2 C. Evans 0 1-2 1. Totals 16 15-22 48
Western Harnett: G. Bryant 6 1-4 13, Perez 4 2-2 10, J. Harper 2 5-8 9, Gilchrist 1 2-3 4, E. Bryant 1 1-2 3, L. Matson 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 11-19 41.
Three-point goals: UP 1 (Coxe); WH none.
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