ROCKY MOUNT —
PINETOPS – With both teams riding loosing streaks, someone's had to end Friday night when the SouthWest Edgecombe Cougars and the Tarboro Vikings met in Pinetops during Eastern Plains Conference action. The Cougars ended their five game loosing skid and defeated the Vikings 75-56. The Vikings are now riding a 10 game loosing streak and can't find a way to win and are in last place in the conference. The win bumped the Cougars back up to fifth with one game remaining.
"I think the fact that we finally had a home game may have had something to do with our performance, but I was pleased with the way we played overall," Cougars head coach Anthony Burns said. "We played with a lot of positive energy and that has to do with our fans."
The Cougars had struggled as of late and weren't able to pull out close games. They have lost two games in overtime and lost four out of the last five by seven points or less. Burns thinks it was the fatigue of his team and the fact that they had a long extended streak where they had a lot of games on the road.
The Cougars had been struggling with turnovers and missed free throws. In practice on Thursday, Burns made his team shot free throws for an hour and it paid off, because they shot 11-19 from the charity strip against the Vikings.
"Our guys needed to work on free throws and I think it paid off for us," Burns said. "We also needed to step up our intensity, because we had been lacking that lately. We slow down a lot during games, because we are too worried about making mistakes. We need to get past that."
Tarboro on the other hand, continued to struggle with the ball on the offensive end and made careless turnover, after careless turnover. They turned the ball over 29 times and that led to 22 points for the Cougars. The Vikings defensive pressure seemed to have no energy behind it, because they only forced the Cougars to turn it over 14 times, which didn't lead but to six points for the Vikings.
"They out played us all over the floor," Tarboro head coach Craig Savage said. "We left shooters open to make easy shots, we didn't rebound and we just didn't play. Defense has hurt us all season and especially on the boards."
Tarboro made a run early in the fourth quarter and cut the Cougars lead to nine after trailing by as many a 18 points, but the Vikings defense couldn't handle the Cougars on the offensive end.
"When you cut into a lead you have to get some defensive stops," Savage said. "We can't score like that and just lag back on defense and not play and let them have someone wide open to shoot the ball."
Cougar Devonte Williams was a big contributor to the Vikings defensive break down. He hit five three-pointers in the game and finished with a game-high 24 points. He shot lights out and led the Cougars one three big runs early on in the game. Javine Hinton and Anthony Coley, two of the senior leaders for the Cougars, made big contributions as well. Hinton scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Coley added 14 points and 12 boards.
The Vikings had only one player in double figures in scoring. Deantonie Exum-Pippen, who finished with 11. Maliek Hudson and Aaron Moore added nine.
Lady Vikings 46
Lady Cougars 27
The Lady Vikings are trying to make a late push to earn a playoff spot by clinching at least the fourth spot in the Eastern Plains Conference, but to do so, they have to win their remaining games. They began that run Friday night against the Lady Cougars by defeating them 46-27.
Nyasha Savage led the way for the Lady Vikings with 11 points. Kharlil Perry added seven and grabbed nine rebounds, while Lisa Jones scored just four and had eight boards.
Tarboro head coach Jamie Willoughby sat her starters the entire fourth quarter knowing what type of run they have to make this week and gave them a much needed rest.
Tarboro started out on a fast pace, but that slowly declined as the game wore on and they began to turn the ball over with careless miscues and missed easy shots within six feet of the basket.
"We got out to a decent start, but we still are missing to many easy shots," WIlloughby said. "I don't think we came out as aggressive as what we needed to be."
The Lady Vikings blew the game open with their pressure full court defense, but they continued to make careless mistakes with the ball and would turn it right back over to the Lady Cougars after forcing a turnover.
Willoughby thought her team’s intensity should have been a little bit higher than what they started out with, but was pleased overall.
The Lady Vikings forced the Lady Cougars to turn the ball over 29 times, but in return the Lady Vikings committed 26 of their own.
"We have to take care of the ball better then what we are doing," Willoughby said. "We have to turn the turnovers we are forcing into points and not turnovers of our own."
Willoughby said that has plagued them all year. The turnovers are something that isn't new to the Lady Vikings. Willoughby doesn't know what the reasoning is behind it, but she thinks it is because her team is going out and just panicking and feels like they are going to make a turnover. She said she wished she knew what the reasoning behind it was so it could be fixed heading into the last week of the season.
"We have made some stupid turnovers this year," Willoughby said. "I don't know what else to do to try and fix it."
SouthWest head coach Sandra Langley was pleased with her team’s defensive performance.
Montana York led the way for the Lady Cougars scoring nine.