Viking Boosters Club
Lady Vikes rally to defeat N. Guilford
March 4, 2011Union Pines High School
The Lady Vikings' stellar season continued with another compelling chapter Friday in Greensboro.
Union Pines pulled off a 51-47 third round victory over Northern Guilford in thrilling fashion to extend its current winning streak to nine games. The 3A NCHSAA basketball road playoff win gave the Vikes their second straight sectional championship as they improved to 27-3 on the season.
"These girls are something else, aren't they?," head coach John Lewkowicz said at the start of his postgame interview. "To be sectional champs again is a spectacular feeling.
"I am so happy for all our girls, especially the kids who are here for the first time, that they get to go through this. Like Tashi Whitney, who was not able to play last season, now she is getting her chance and she is just rising to the occasion - it is just amazing and I am so proud of her."
Things did not look promising for Union Pines early on in the Section 3 championship tilt. The homestanding Nighthawks (24-5, Mid-State top seed) came out on fire from the field, while the Cape Fear Valley two-seed Vikings seemed tight.
By the 2:44 mark of the opening period, Northern Guilford had built a 14-2 lead and showed no signs of letting off the gas. Lewkowicz then called for a timeout and when Union Pines broke the huddle, the game took on a completely different tone.
Spurred on by smooth playmaking from senior guard Whitney, Union Pines responded with 9-0 run to cut the lead to 14-11 by the end of the period.
After Whitney banged in a jumper, she then found Tyler Ross for a bucket down low. Ross was fouled and made the free throw to cut the margin to 14-7. Next Whitney connected with senior point guard Tyesha McLean on a fast break score. McLean then scored again after making a steal to cap the surge.
"During the timeout, I told them to just take it one possession at a time," said Lewkowicz. "I reminded them we had plenty of time left and had been through some tough times as a group and before you knew it, we were right there.
"Then once we realized we were right there, as a team we knew we could hang in that ballgame till the end, and it's all about them - each and every girl on our roster believed in themselves and got this thing done. They are just an amazing group of kids and players."
The second quarter was back-and-forth all the way. Northern Guilford, ranked ninth according to maxpreps.com's 3A poll, led 21-19 at the half. McLean had eight points, three steals and three boards at the break for fifth ranked Union Pines, while Ross had six points and eight boards.
The Lady Vikings took their first lead of the game on a putback by freshman Tiffany Hicks that made the score 25-24 at the three-minute mark. A three-pointer by senior guard Kelly Campbell gave Union Pines a 28-27 edge, which Cristina Morcom extended to 30-27 down low on a feed from McLean with 1:20 remaining in the third period.
Starting the fourth and final frame clinging to a 30-29 lead, Union Pines then began to find its rhythm. Whitney made a fadeaway from the left side to start a six-point run as the Vikes edge moved to 38-33 with 3:54 left on the clock.
At the 2:31 mark, Union Pines held a 40-35 lead but then McLean, a four-year starting point guard and senior captain, fouled out with two minutes remaining. A pair of made free throws by Whitney gave the Vikes a 42-37 lead with 1:50 remaining. She soon sank both ends of a double bonus as the Vike margin swelled to 45-38 at the 1:07 mark.
The Nighthawks then mounted a serious charge, connecting from behind the arc in each of their ensuing three possessions. Senior Sam Coffer banged home a trey from the top of the key giving the Nighthawks a 47-46 lead with 24 seconds remaining.
Lewkowicz described North Guilford as a fantastic team.
"This is one game where there had to be a winner and a loser," he said, "but Northern Guilford is a great ball club. There is certainly no doubt about that."
Coffer, the lone Nighthawk starting senior, had a big game finishing with 17 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, three blocks and two steals.
Ultimately, Union Pines sealed the win with clutch shots at the free throw line. First Morcom made both ends after being intentionally fouled. Crystal Hicks then sank one of two in a double bonus situation. Finally, Whitney swished in the Vikes final two points with 9.1 ticks left on the clock to provide the final margin of victory
Whitney finished with 16 points, seven assists and three steals to lead the Vikes in scoring for second straight playoff game, despite missing three-plus minutes of action in the second half with a knee injury.
"My knee has been aggravating me since Monday's opening round game," Whitney said, "but I had put that out of my head. When I went down late in the third, I thought I was done for at first. The trainer helped me work it out though. When I returned to the court, I had to just fight through it because I was not ready to go home - now we are still alive and it feels great."
Ross notched her third double-double in her last four games, finishing with 13 points, 15 rebounds and three steals.
McLean scored 10 points, along with five assists and four steals, while Morcom had four points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
Tiffany Hicks gave the Vikes a boost off the bench with six rebounds and a critical bucket in the clutch, while her older sister Crystal had three points, eight rebounds and three assists despite battling foul trouble throughout.
Union Pines will return to action in the NCHSAA 3A Regional semifinal round Friday in Fayetteville against Northern Nash (22-3, Big East two-seed) at 7 p.m. in the Crown Arena..
The other regional semifinalist matchup is between Mid-State teams South Central (25-4, Mid-State top seed) and Williams (26-3 Mid-State, three seed).
Contact F.W. Manning at firstname.lastname@example.org.