SPORTS >>Falcons top Oak Grove
By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor
North Pulaski didn’t take nearly as long to get its first win this year as last year, although it did come against the same team. North Pulaski overwhelmed the Hornets with waves of bodies in pulling away for a 74-49 victory to the delight of the crowd, team and head coach.
“For an opening night it wasn’t bad,” NP coach Raymond Cooper said. “There were a few times when we didn’t get back on defense, but that wasn’t lack of hustle. I expected more breakdowns, but for the most part they played pretty solid.”
The Falcons were 20 games into the season last year before they got their first win, a home game against Oak Grove.
This year the realignment took the Hornets out of NP’s conference, and the two scheduled each other early on. It was Oak Grove’s second game and the Hornets were co-ming off a 33-point win at Dover a week earlier. But the Falcons jumped ahead by double digits early and never looked back. All 13 Falcons on the bench played in the first quarter, and all but two scored in the game.
Kelvin Parker and Ridge Williams, both of whom came off the bench, provided a scoring lift for North Pulaski in the first quarter when the starters struggled from the floor. Parker hit a three within seconds of entering the game, and Williams became a force on the offensive boards, getting two stic-kbacks that turned a two-point margin into a nine-point Falcon lead in the opening frame.
That lead doubled by halftime when reserves Aaron Cooper and Cliff Harrison began warming up from the floor. Only one starter scored for the Falcons in the second quarter, and five of the eight that scored in the first half were reserves.
Conversely, only three Oak Grove players scored at all in the first half. Point guard Jay Patterson, and post players Patrick Pryor and Marcus Perkins were carrying all the scoring load for the out-manned visitors.
NP led 39-21 at halftime, and had its worst quarter of the game in the third. The lead didn’t go away, but it didn’t grow in the third. Jay Patterson and sophomore Jaloni Patterson began to dribble the Falcon press, and Oak Grove beat the Falcons down the court after missed shots to answer with a couple of easy buckets.
Cooper wasn’t happy that his team was beat down the floor, but was not upset with his team’s effort in the third.
“They didn’t get beat because of a lack of hustle, it was just a breakdown of execution,” Cooper said. “Everybody got too busy trying to find their man, which is what I told them to do, but they forgot to stop the ball. That’s the kind of thing you expect in a first game. The fact that it only happened a couple of times is good. We’ll get that corrected.”
The Falcons maintained their lead by the scoring prowess of senior Quinn Cooper, who led the team in scoring last season. Cooper scored nine of NP’s 13 points in the third to keep the margin 18 points at 52-34 at the end of three.
The Falcons pulled away in the fourth despite reaching the bonus in fouls. NP got hot from outside and Oak Grove hit just two of seven foul shots in the fourth quarter.
NP had hit just two of nine three-point attempts in the first three quarters, but nailed four of five in the fourth. Quinn Cooper, Tony Glass, Aaron Cooper and Stanley Appleby all hit three pointers in the final frame.
Sophomore post Carlos Donley also got in on the offense, hitting two buckets off set plays from inside the lane.
Oak Grove’s Perkins led all scorers with 19 points. He was the only Hornet in double figures.
Quinn Cooper led the Falcons with 18 points. Donley and Williams scored 10 each. Harrison added eight while Aaron Cooper and Parker scored seven apiece for the well-balanced Falcons.
The Lady Falcons cruised to an easy win for their first victory of the season. The NP ladies hammered Oak Grove 47-15.
The Lady Falcon defense didn’t give up a field goal in the first quarter and led 12-1 heading into the second. Leticia Harvey, who scored Oak Grove’s single point in the first period, scored six more in the second and finished with seven of her team’s nine points in the first half. The Lady Falcons led 24-9 at the break, but blew the game open in the third when Harvey went down with an injury early on.
She returned with about two minutes left in the game, but as the team’s only real ball handler, who absence, along with a frenzied and active NP defense, led to 12 third-quarter Hornet turnovers and a 28-point Lady Falcon lead.
“We improved all three games last week even though we didn’t win,” North Pulaski coach Todd Romaine said. “I was hoping that we would continue to improve at the same rate that we did last week and I think they did that. The pressure was good.”
NP Lakreshia Cash also stepped on the gas offensively, scoring on three straight possessions, grabbing five rebounds, picking up two steals and dishing out an assist in the third quarter.
Cash led the team in scoring and rebounding with 13 points and 12 boards, but Romaine gave some of that credit to post player Tamara Rhodes.“She rebounded very well and played aggressively like I asked her too,” Romaine said. “When she plays well, we tend to play better. She cleared out a lot of space for Keisha and the others to get in there for some of those rebounds.”
Rhodes finished with eight points and 11 boards.
Brea Johnson added eight points and had four steals and three assists.
The Lady Falcons had a huge rebounds advantage, doubling up Oak Grove’s total with 36. The defense also forced 39 Lady Hornet turnovers.
The Falcons and Lady Falcons play at rival Jacksonville on Tuesday.