All is fine when things are going well. The young Union Pines boys basketball team experienced that for the first few weeks of the new season under first-year coach Zach Marks, and the last two have brought out times to test the team.
Even after a 56-51 loss at home to Scotland Tuesday, Marks got another glimpse into the mettle his team possesses.
“There’s no quit in them. Even all the way through the end I told them we played the start to the end, even with five seconds left. We played with good energy,” Marks said. “It’s different for them, but I feel like they’re starting to figure it out.”
Trading out the lead in the second half, Scotland (9-2, 3-0 Sandhills) took a four-point lead to start the third quarter and Union Pines (6-4, 1-1 Sandhills) flipped around for an eight point lead with less than two minutes to go in the period.
A pair of scores by Scotland’s Lamonte Cousar cut the lead to 43-41 entering the fourth quarter, and the versatile big man scored eight of his 12 points in the final quarter. This came after he went quiet in the first half after sitting out in foul trouble.
The teams traded the lead for the first six minutes of the fourth, a key 3-pointer from Aiden Leonard helped the Vikings take a 46-44 lead and Trent Hilburn added a score later to break the tie and put the home team up 48-46.
Empty trips for Union Pines and a few offensive rebounds from the Scots helped the visitors take a two-score advantage late in the contest.
“Most of our games have been close. Toward the beginning of the season we were able to come out on top during the close ones,” Marks said. “We’ve got to get a couple loose rebounds we didn’t get there at the end, and make our free throws down the stretch.”
The Viking went 0-for-7 from the free-throw line in the fourth, and only Zion Kiser made his two free throws in the second half as the team was 2-for-10 from the charity stripe after halftime; after missing only two in the first half.
The start of the game couldn’t have gone much better for the Vikings. Senior forward Owen St. John took over for a stretch in the first quarter, and his two straight three-point plays helped open a 14-4 lead for the Vikings. Scotland trimmed the lead to 19-15 going into the second quarter.Marks
“We tried to find some mismatches early. We got them into foul trouble like we wanted to with our game plan. But getting off to a start like that, you’ve just got to keep pushing it forward,” Marks said. “Toward the end of the first quarter and the start of the second quarter, we got too comfortable with the lead. Our energy dipped and so did our play.”
St. John and Kiser both had 10 points to lead the Vikings, with Hilburn adding eight points and Leonard scoring seven.
Jaquez Caldwell scored 21 points to lead Scotland.
Vikings Girls Lose Momentum in Loss
Storming out of halftime, the Union Pines girls basketball team seemed to have found a way to attack Scotland’s press and force stops on the other end as well.
Cutting the Scotland lead to one in the first three minutes, Scotland quickly rebounded to widen the gap to claim the 54-42 win on the road Tuesday.
Trailing by six points at halftime, Union Pines (2-7, 0-2 Sandhills) used a layup and a 3-pointer from Corryn McCutchen to cut the Scotland lead to 23-22. An 18-2 run from Scotland put away any chance at a comeback to push the lead to 41-24 lead entering the fourth.
“I like that, but that’s our problem right now, we’ve got to quit playing in spurts,” Union Pines coach Anissa Little said. “We’ve got to play for a full game. I felt like we played well for three or four minutes, but then it was like the bottom would fall out for three to four minutes.”
McCutchen scored 15 points to lead the Vikings, with Mikayla Dunn adding eight points and Taryn Pekala with seven points.
Savannah McCaskill pulled down 12 rebounds, but with senior Meghan McCaskill out, the Vikings were at a disadvantage against the Scots.
“We were challenged tonight in rebounding with Meghan (McCaskill) out sick, but I give my hats off to (Scotland) for doing a really good job of keeping the pressure on us,” Little said. “Their point guard was really good, and keeping her out of the paint we knew was going to be a challenge.”
Scotland’s Morgan Thompson had 21 points and Alicia McClain had 14 points.
Union Pines travels to Western Harnett Wednesday for a varsity doubleheader.
Pinecrest Opens Conference Play With Sweep
Nearly a month into the basketball season, Pinecrest’s boys and girls basketball team started Sandhills Athletic Conference play at Southern Lee Tuesday with a pair of wins.
In the girls game, Pinecrest jumped out to a big lead and turned it into a 68-19 win over the Cavaliers.
Pinecrest (3-4, 1-0 Sandhills) scored 25 points in the first quarter to lead 25-2, and then held Southern Lee to six points total in the second half.
Four Patriots scored in double figures in the win, led by Jakaya Scott with 13 points. Aniya McGregor and Zanodiya McNair added 12 points each, and Donaka Owens had 10 points.
In the boys game, Pinecrest shrugged off a slow start for a 71-38 win over the Cavaliers.
Pinecrest (6-5, 1-0 Sandhills) senior J.D. Scarbrough scored all his 12 points in the first half, and Zymire Spencer added 12 points off the bench. Elijah Melton and Azir Gillespie each scored nine points.
Pinecrest hosts Richmond Wednesday.
Contact Jonathan Bym at (910) 693-2470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.