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Lady Vikes Ready for Regional Opener

March 4, 2011
Union Pines High School

BY F.W. Manning
The Pilot

The Union Pines Lady Vikings resume their remarkable playoff run tonight in the NCHSAA 3A Eastern Regional basketball semifinals at the Crown Arena in Fayetteville against Northern Nash.

With a record of 27-3, the Vikes are back at the regional for a second straight season. As the Section 3 champion, Union Pines enters the fourth round playoff tilt riding a nine-game win streak.

At Monday's Eastern Regional Tournament press conference, Vike head coach John Lewkowicz spoke about his team making its second straight trip to the elite eight at the 3A regional championship.

"For the players that were here last season, I feel like they are going to be much more aware of the magnitude of the accompanying circumstances that go with playing in the regional tournament," said Lewko-wicz. "The drive is certainly there - we have got that - and it is something you definitely want to see as a coach."

Last season, the Vikings were eliminated in the regional semifinals, falling 60-43 to South Central.

"Coming into this game I feel like we are playing our best basketball of the season," said Lewkowicz. "You want to peak at the right time, so that is a great sign. Also, the girls are all really excited and eager to play. Last year as a team we sort of looked around and ­wondered if we belonged, but this season we truly feel like we have earned the right to be here and are ready to give it our best shot."

The Northern Nash Knights, of Rocky Mount, return to the regional round for the first time since 1999 according to their head coach Grover Battle. Last season, Northern went 11-12. This year the Knights are 22-3 as the second seed from the Big East.

"We are a lot younger than our 1998 state championship team, which also went to the regional final the following year," Battle said. "and I really did not think we would make it this far. We are team that plays an aggressive style of up-tempo basketball. The main thing we try to do is play hard and together as a group."

Northern Nash is not ranked in maxpreps.com's top-25 3A girls' Freeman ratings, but did earn honorable mention in the final ncpreps.com/high school media 3A poll. Meanwhile, Union Pines is ranked eighth in the media poll and fourth according to MaxPreps.

The Knights road to regional semis started with a 79-23 opening round win versus Currituck. They then topped West Carteret 53-43, before besting Havelock 60-48 in the Section 2 championship.

Union Pines, the Cape Fear Valley second seed, opened its playoff run with a 61-40 victory over Southern Guilford. The Vikes then defeated Rockingham County 47-29 before notching a 51-47 road win over Northern Guilford in round three.

Tonight's other 3A eastern regional semifinal pairs South Central (25-4, Coastal top seed) against Williams (24-3, Mid-State three seed). That game is scheduled to tip off at 8:30 p.m., while Union Pines takes the floor at the Crown Arena for fourth round playoff action at 7 p.m. in Fayetteville.

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