Lady Vikings hold off Lee County for 57-54 victory
When Union Pines lost its sophomore center, Stephanie Johnson, after she had scored 15 points in the first half at Lee County Thursday night, the Lady Vikings turned to two young guards the rest of the way.
Freshman Nyona Shields scored 17 points, 11 in the second half, and sophomore Maresa Smith scored 13, eight in the second half, and Union Pines (8-1, 3-0) held on for a hard-fought 57-54 win over the Lady Yellow Jackets (4-5, 1-2).
Junior forward Noelle Beattie led Lee County with 15 points and nine rebounds. Her jump-shooting keyed the Lady Jacket rally in the second half. Guards Quitta Wilson, Jasmine Person and Shantel Bennett scored 11 each.
Lee County fought all the way back from a 31-19 deficit seconds into the second half, tying the game 39-39 going to the fourth quarter and 41-41 a little more than two minutes into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Vikings answered from there, not allowing the Lady Jackets to move in front, though the game went down to the buzzer.
With Union Pines ahead 53-52 with 0:39 left, Shields went to the line where she was 1-for-6 in the second half, but she made both shots on this trip.
Smith made 1 of 2 at the line to make it 56-52 with 0:25 left. Jasmine Person made a 15-foot jumper from a wing bringing the Lady Jackets within a bucket with 0:14. Lee County sent Shields back to the line, and she made 1 of 2, with 0:08 left.
Needing a three-pointer, the Lady Jackets couldn’t get a shot away before the horn.
Lee County took its game, primarily its defense, to the visitors to start the contest.
A driving lay-up by Wilson was the first score of the game 3:06 into the game. Person turned a steal into a fast-break lay-up, then rebounded a miss by Beattie on another break and scored making it 7-2 Lee County. The Lady Jackets led 9-6 after a period.
Union Pines made 2 of 12 field goals in the opening period but turned it around to make 9 of 13 in the second quarter. Getting easy buckets from Lady Jacket turnovers or working to get Johnson the ball in the paint were the main Lady Viking attacks.
Johnson finished a break with a lay-up, followed quickly with Lexie Coxe hitting a three-pointer and Shields finishing a break with a lay-up for a 24-14 lead at the 3:15 mark before halftime.
In the last minute of the half, a long Jacket pass trying to break the Lady Viking pressing led to a collision near midcourt and Johnson being hit in the face and injured. She missed the rest of the game.
Union Pines led 29-19 at halftime with 15 points, eight boards and two blocks from its 6-foot center.
The Lady Jackets chipped the Lady Viking lead to three a couple times in the third quarter before making a big push to close the quarter.
Bennett made a driving three-point play followed by Lee County trapping off the made free throw and a steal by Wilson leading to a hoop by Beattie making it 39-37 Union Pines. Person scored off an offensive board to send the game to the fourth period tied.
With the Lady Vikings ahead by a point nearing four minutes in the game, a missed Viking free throw led to a Lee County fast break. Smith intercepted a pass across the paint and started a Union Pines break with a long pass to Samantha Ring for a lay-up.
Off another defensive stop, Smith drove into the lane, spun and made a short jumper putting the Lady Vikings ahead 53-47 with less than two minutes left.
Wilson made a three-pointer to get Lee County within a possession and after Shields missed two free throws, Wilson drove to the basket for a lay-up trimming the margin to 53-52 with 0:39 left.
Smith also had nine rebounds and seven steals for the Lady Vikings, who will play next in the Yellow Jacket Holiday Basketball Classic starting Dec. 27 at Lee County.
For the Lady Jackets, Person had a team-high 11 rebounds. Wilson had seven assists and Bennett had eight steals and six assists.
Lee County gets its third game in four nights this evening, hosting Athens Drive in a non-conference game at 7 p.m.