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Union rallies for win

Feb. 5—The Lakewood Leopards hosted the Lady Spartans of Union on Friday in a fiery game on the court. The home team fell stagnant in the second half and Union rallied to take their fifth win in the Carolina 1A, 39-34.

In the first quarter it was slow going for both sides as they struggled to get past one another and make anything happen offensively. Both squads were floundering on the court trying to find their first bucket of the game in the opening minutes. Finally, some scoring took place with Union jumping ahead with a pair of scores only for Lakewood to fire right back with two three coming from Lashaunta Joyner and Amiyah Smith to take the lead. Union sank a three pointer to pull them ahead but Smith would sink a mid-range jumper to reclaim lead with less than two minutes left.

The Leopards managed to hold the Lady Spartans down and add on four more before the opening quarter closed out, holding the lead entering the second, 11-7.

The Leopards were on fire in the second as they pummeled Union on the court. The Spartans were struggling to get anything in the basket while the home team was finding the net much easier. Halfway through the quarter, Lakewood's Alexis Rhodes, Joyner and Smith were raining down on the visitors, forcing Union to adjust to the barrage of offense. Union was stuck and hadn't scored in those minutes as the Leopards jumped up to a 11 point lead, 18-7.

Suddenly, the Spartans found momentum as Ariyona Spearman found an opening and shot a long range two pointer, ending Union's scoring drought. From there, Lakewood found themselves up against a wall, cornered by the fierce offense they had been hoping to out run. In a blink the double digit lead shrank to just four at halftime, Lakewood still had the lead going into the break, 21-17.

The Spartans came out firing with Spearman bringing them within one off a slick three pointer, 30 seconds into the third. Lakewood didn't take that lying down and immediately fired back trying to reclaim their dominance, in this tightly contested affair. Afterwards, Joyner would be fouled and took a trip to the charity stripe where she'd add two more to give them a five point lead. The Leopards would rapidly add two more buckets to the board with the second score turning into a three point play from a shooting foul.

Spartan Centavia McKoy would save the play tossing in the ball before it landed out of bounds with a midair pass to Aleeyah Richardson who'd convert for two, keeping them in it. Lakewood would only need to hold off Union for one more quarter after leading for the first three, entering the fourth Union trailed by six, 30-24.

In the fourth, the Spartan wall was finally repaired and Lakewood would be held to just four points, while the Union advance had trudged forward. The visitors struck first closing the gap to one after a quick layup and a clutch three from Zadariyah Faison. The Leopards began to fall apart and lost possession on the transition shortly after the three, allowing Union to reclaim the lead for the first time since the first quarter at 31-30 with five and half left in the game. Nothing seemed to fall for Lakewood but Union was also struggling.

Joyner would be fouled and would return to the charity stripe, sinking one of two of her free throws to tie it up. Union would hit another three to the board and from here, the win was in hand with little time to recoup. They'd try to rally back but instead gave the Spartans would add four more to the board as the Leopards defense had fallen apart. Union would take the win back home, taking down the Leopards for the second time in the season, 39-34.

Union now sits at 13-4 with a 5-1 record in league play. They will return to action on Tuesday and Friday, defending the home court against the Rosewood Eagles (6-14) and the North Duplin Rebels (12-6), who they are tied with in first place in the Carolina 1A.

Lakewood falls to 7-9, sitting in third with a 4-2 record. They split between the road and home this week as they take on the Carolina 1A leaders, traveling to the North Duplin Rebels (12-6) on Tuesday then they face the Hobbton Wildcats (0-15) at home.

Reach Anthony McConnaughey at amcconnaughey@clintonnc.com, X @SampsonSports or on the Sampson Independent Facebook page