Union Pines pulled away late in a 65-46 win over Triton in the first round of the Tri-County Six 3-A Conference boys basketball tournament at Harnett Central on Monday.
“We definitely didn’t score the ball,” said Triton coach T.J. Morrison. “We didn’t shoot very well on the offensive end. I told the guys, ‘As teenagers, you’re resilient. You went from super high on Friday night (after a 100-72 win over visiting Harnett Central) to a super low on Friday night after all the things they heard and probably dealt with (referencing a shooting at the Cook Out in Dunn after the game).’ Then to have to play again on Monday night, they’ve got to be resilient. At first, I was thinking we were and we were competing even though the shots weren’t falling. And then in the fourth quarter, we had five or six really bad possessions where we took a rushed shot, a bad shot or turned it over and let them get layups on the other end. So, the lead ballooned. You’re down, six or eight and then you’re down 19 because of bad possessions and then not hustling, sprinting back and giving up easy layups.
“On one hand, I told them that I’m proud of them and I wonder about how I would have handled the situations they’ve dealt with over the last few days. The situations they’ve dealt with and the ups and the downs. I don’t know that I would have handled it as well as they did. On the other hand, I was a little disappointed that we almost quit kind of at the end. It looks like a blowout and it was really a close game, I thought.”
Senior Josiah Lett had 20 points to lead the Hawks (11-13).
“I’ve been really pleased with Jo. He’s just a great kid,” Morrison said. “Last year he didn’t play a lot. The beginning of this year, he actually was not playing as much and really couldn’t catch the ball. Lately he’s been really strong. He’s had two 20-point games back-to-back. He’s been really consistent and really good for us. He worked at it and improved.”
Travion Sanders, Leyton Kelly and Jaden Geddie had six points apiece. Myshon Smith and Dalen Thompson had four points apiece.
Triton was without junior center Ladrabious Eason because of an injury and senior guard Keionta Burnett for an undisclosed reason.
Junior guard Dalen Thompson returned to action for Triton for the first time since suffering a hand fracture at Harnett Central on Jan. 28.
Senior Tyreek McCoy had 28 points and senior Jalen Eberhart had 12 points to lead the Vikings (11-14).
The game was close most of the way, with Triton leading 12-10 at the end of the first quarter and Union Pines leading 25-20 at halftime and 44-38 at the end of the third.
Holding a 54-46 lead late in the fourth quarter, Union Pines pulled away with 11 unanswered points to end the game.
The second round of the conference tournament is at Southern Lee on Tuesday. Union Pines will play the top-seeded host Cavaliers, with the winner advancing to Thursday’s championship at the highest remaining girls tournament seed.
Triton is currently on the bubble for the NCHSAA 3-A state playoffs and will have to wait until the brackets are released to learn if its season will continue.
“It looked like at one point the bracket had us out of the playoffs and then at No. 31 playing Clayton, then out of the playoffs and then No. 32 playing against Westover,” Morrison said. “I told the guys I’m not ready to give up yet. I’m not ready to let it go. So, we’re going to practice the next three or four days as if we’re going to make the playoffs. A chance to get a little better for the juniors and the sophomores and the freshmen and then maybe we’re still in the playoffs. So, we’ll see. We’re going to treat the next few days like we’re in.”