On a night when Union Pines celebrated the induction of the Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2020, the Viking girls celebrated taking over first place in the Tri-County 6 Conference standings.
In an exciting back-and-fourth basketball game between the Vikings and Harnett Central, Union Pines claimed a 45-43 win. Both teams entered the game with 4-1 conference marks. The Trojans had handed the Vikings their league loss earlier this season.
“Oh, wow — I mean it’s amazing,” said Viking head coach Anissa Little. “We started the week by talking about controlling our own destiny, so tonight was a must win for us. We had to be 1-0 after this game. It was a total team effort.”
And it was a team effort, as all five starters made significant contributions to the win. Molly Schmitz, Kaley Evans and Sara Adams had 10 points each while Emily Bowbliss had eight and Emma Ring seven.
Schmitz added eight rebounds, Evans had seven rebounds and Bowbliss added seven rebounds and five steals.
Evans and Adams had two three-pointers apiece.
Schmitz, listed at a generous 5-foot-11 on the roster, had to face off against the Trojans’ 6-1 Syniah McMiller. McMiller earned a game-high 17 points, but they were a hard-earned 17 points.
Little had nothing but admiration for Schmitz’s performance.
“She was outmanned,” said Little. “No. 40 (Syniah McMiller) was taller, she could jump higher. But Molly is my senior, she’s a captain and she’s my leader. She left everything she had out on that floor tonight.
“She challenged her teammates to do the same thing and we were successful.”
But that success did not come easy.
Trailing 33-27 early in the second half, the Vikings got consecutive three-pointers from Adams and Evans that sparked a 10-0 run the put the Vikes up 37-33.
Then the Trojans (13-4 overall) surged back ahead 38-37 before Adams hit another three to put the Vikes up 40-38 heading into the fourth quarter.
“Those three-pointers were huge,” said Little. “One thing I like to tell the kids is that big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games. They weren’t afraid to take the shots and they knocked them down.”
Harnett Central tied it at 40-40 early in the fourth, but the Vikes responded with two free throws from Ring, a 12-footer from Evans and a foul shot from Bowbliss to go back up 45-40.
Bowbliss hit a foul shot with 10 seconds left and the Trojans hit a layup at the buzzer to bring in the final 46-43 count.
Little was happy with the way her team played in the fourth quarter, especially after they got the lead and Harnett Central turned up the pressure.
“One thing I tell them is that when we’re ahead you have to remember that you’re ahead,” she said. “You control the situation and you don’t have to get flustered.”
Union Pines, now 13-7, have won five games in a row, all in the conference. They entertain Lee County at home Tuesday in another conference encounter.