Triton had its Senior Night spoiled by visiting Tri-County Six 3-A Conference foe Union Pines, which posted a varsity basketball sweep Tuesday.
Triton’s girls struggled in a 51-32 loss to Union Pines as the Vikings clinched the conference championship.
“We did not play our game at all,” said Triton girls coach Wendy Simmons. “We just lost composure and didn’t play hard. Every now and then we would show up and do what we were supposed to do, but we got too far behind to catch up.”
Freshman A’Shari Watlington had 12 points to pace the Hawks (10-2, 7-2 TCSC).
Tristan Ennis had six points and five rebounds. Kaila Cooney had four points and three assists. Aubree Bass had three points and seven rebounds. Anastasia McDonald had three points and four assists. Abby Hood had two points, four rebounds and three assists.
Ennis got into foul trouble early and eventually fouled out. Simmons said having one of her leading post players battling foul trouble changed the dynamic of the game for Triton.
“We need her on the floor,” Simmons said. “It hurts when she gets into foul trouble.”
Junior Aaliyah Balser had 23 points and junior Sara Adams had 10 points to lead the Vikings (10-1, 8-1).
Prior to the game, Triton recognized two girls basketball seniors, Kaila Cooney and Anastasia McDonald, and five senior cheerleaders, Haydn Miller, Abbie Flowers, Alyssa Allen, Erin Taylor and Taylor Pope.
Union Pines controlled the first three quarters, outscoring Triton 16-8 in the first, 12-6 in the second and 16-8 in the third. Triton outscored Union Pines 8-7 in the fourth.
Triton recovered after a sluggish start, but could not complete the rally, falling 44-32 to Union Pines in the boys game.
“They played a little zone and we didn’t attack it well,” said Triton boys coach T.J. Morrison. “Southern Lee played us in a zone the other night and we only scored 24 points. Tonight, we didn’t look great either. Some of that is when you rush and take bad shots that are shots that they want you to take and are low-percentage shots.
“We also didn’t guard very well. We got out of man and I don’t like playing zone at all, but we had to go to a zone in the second and third quarter and even late in the game because we just couldn’t stop them in man. Tough night. I hate it for the seniors. I hate it because I thought we had a chance to make the playoffs. A lot less likely now unless teams are quarantined. Just a disappointing night.”
Senior Dalen Thompson had 11 points and four rebounds to lead the Hawks (4-5, 4-3).
Nate McKoy had five points and 13 rebounds. Amir Jenkins had four points. Jalen Evans had three points and three rebounds. Sabine Wheeler had three points. Hayden Pope had two points and four rebounds. Luke West had two points and three rebounds. Xavion Richardson had two points.
Senior Ahmad Jones had 12 points and junior Kelby Wright had 10 points to lead the Vikings (7-3, 6-2).
Prior to the game, Triton recognized six boys basketball seniors, Dalen Thompson, Jamari Amerson, Harris Pope, Xavion Richardson, Diontae Smith and Luke West.
“Dalen is a heck of an athlete and I have him in class, too, and he is a good student,” Morrison said. “I hope he has a good career (in baseball) and hope he has a good season this year. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to play baseball but three or four games last year (because of the start of the pandemic). I hope he has a good career at Campbell and beyond.
“Definitely glad to have Xavion and Diontae, two other great kids. I wasn’t expecting to have them (both are wrestlers who got to play basketball this year because of schedules being rearranged for COVID-19), but I’m glad to have them. Luke is just a hard worker and works his tail off at everything he does. He grinds it out, never quits and is coachable. And unfortunately for Harris, he didn’t get to play, because he’s got a boot on his foot (for an injury), so I hate that for him.”
Triton fell behind early, as Union Pines went on a 16-4 run through the first quarter. But the Hawks outscored the Vikings 10-7 in the second quarter to cut the lead to 23-14 at halftime.
Triton opened the third quarter on an 8-2 run to cut the lead to three, but Union Pines finished the quarter with six unanswered points and then outscored Triton 13-10 in the fourth quarter to close out the game.
Triton’s junior varsity boys took the lone win on the night for the Hawks, beating Union Pines 48-38.
Triton’s varsity boys were originally scheduled to play at Western Harnett on Wednesday and at Harnett Central on Friday, but those games have been canceled due to the Western and Central varsity boys quarantining for COVID-19, meaning Tuesday was the final regular-season game for Triton’s varsity boys.
Triton is not projected to make the NCHSAA 3-A state playoffs, but if any teams in the playoffs are forced to quarantine, Morrison hopes the Hawks may be selected as a replacement.
“I just told them to stay ready in case,” Morrison said. “We’re not in a good position for them, but you just never know what’s going to happen between now and Tuesday. What if a few teams come down with a virus or something happens? We just want to stay ready just in case. If our name pops up Saturday (when brackets are released) or even after, I’d love to be ready to play.”
Union Pines’ varsity girls end the regular season at home against Western Harnett on Friday. Triton’s varsity girls travel to conference and Harnett County rival Harnett Central. With Central’s girls winning, 54-18, at Southern Lee on Wednesday, Friday’s game will be for second place in the conference and a spot in the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs.
“I guess I’ll find out how bad the girls want it,” Simmons said. “I thought I would find out tonight, but maybe we’ll get a second chance and they can show me that they’re not through playing yet.”