SPORTS >>Falcons' defense chokes Paragould
By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor
It only took two games for North Pulaski and second-year coach Raymond Cooper to get a conference win. Last year, the Falcons didn’t win a conference game until the last game of the season, so Friday’s 58-44 home win over Paragould was big.
“It sure is nice to get that win,” Cooper said. “We felt like we should have won the first one, but we let it get away. We know we have a team that can win some games this year.”
North Pulaski struggled a bit in the first half, but clamped down defensively to lock down Paragould’s offense in the second half.
Two freshmen led the Falcons in scoring. Post player DaQuan Bryant and guard Aaron Cooper scored 11 and 10 points respectively.
The Falcons led by only three, 26-23, at halftime, but North Pulaski’s defense gave up just one field goal through the first 14 minutes of the second half. Going back to the first half, NP gave up just one field goal for nearly 22 minutes. Paragould hit a layup in the first minute of the second quarter, and got their last 10 points of the period from the free-throw line.
It was a three-pointer by Cooper that gave North Pulaski its biggest lead of the game at 54-34 with two minutes remaining.
Paragould scored 11 points in the final 90 seconds, including three treys, to cut into the margin.
Coach Cooper felt that his team fouled too much in the second half and prolonged the game, but didn’t realize it had given up just one bucket for nearly two quarters.
“Maybe I was a little hard on them afterwards,” Cooper said. “I really did feel like our defensive intensity level was way up. I know the effort was there. We just fouled too much at the end of the game. We talked about closing teams out all week, and when we got them down, we fouled them and sent them to the line. But I’m extremely pleased with the effort they gave. They just have to be a little bit smarter.”
Paragould jumped out to a small early lead on the strong inside game of center Alex Garmrath. Garmrath scored seven of the Rams’ 11 first-quarter points and led them to an 11-9 lead.
The Falcons got a big lift from the bench in the second quarter. Only two NP starters scored in the second frame. Quinn Cooper and Rod Banks each hit a free throw, the other 13 points came from the bench, including five by Aaron Cooper.
The freshman Cooper got steals on back-to-back Paragould possessions and turned them into five points. Stanley Appleby and Wesley Louis each hit three pointers during a burst of scoring that put the home team ahead by six points.
Paragould’s inside game was still a factor though. Although the Rams didn’t score a single bucket for the final seven minutes of the period, they stayed in the game at the line.
Paragould hit 10-of-10 free-throw attempts in the second quarter, including six in the final minute that sent the Rams into halftime trailing just 26-23.
“That’s too many fouls, but I’ll take one bucket in 21 minutes every time out,” Cooper said.
Paragould’s chances at a comeback were severely damaged late in the second quarter. With 22 seconds left in the half, Garmrath slammed his head into the floor while being called for a charge. The collision resulted in a concussion and rendered him unable to return for the remainder of the game.
The third quarter and most of the fourth was all Falcons.
North Pulaski outscored Paragould 16-5 in the third quarter, giving up just one bucket. A 12-6 start to the fourth put the Falcons up by 20 and sealed the win.
Paragould got to the line a lot in the second half, but North Pulaski’s pressure took its toll. The Rams hit 12-of-13 foul shots in the first half, but made eight of 13 in the second half.
The Falcons were 11 of 17 from the foul line.
Despite not playing in the second half, Garmrath still led the Rams with 13 points. Brad Nunn also score 13, hitting for eight points in the final two minutes, while Casey Flippo finished with 12, including 10 free throws.
NP’s two leading scorers didn’t just score, they led in other categories. Cooper picked up six steals while Bryant grabbed eight rebounds.
The win lifted North Pulaski to 6-6 overall on the season while Paragould dropped to 5-9 and 0-2.
The Lady Falcons fell behind early, mounted a strong comeback but came up on the short end of a 54-41 decision.
The Lady Rams’ inside passing created too many open shots at close range for the Lady Falcons to keep up with.
Post players Ariel Walker and Mikka Jaggers combined for 38 of Paragould’s points. While Walker scored exclusively from the inside, Jaggers stepped out for a couple of three pointers as well.
The Lady Falcons fell behind by as much as 18, but put together a furious rally in the third quarter to cut the margin to 36-31. Unfortunately, that’s when Jaggers heated up from outside and knocked down back-to-back treys to quickly extend the lead back to double digits.
Walker led all scorers with 20 points while Jaggers added 18. Neisha Ridgeway scored 18 to lead North Pulaski, who fell to 2-10 and 0-2. Paragould improved to 7-9 and 1-1.
The Falcons played at Batesville last night after Leader deadlines. They will host Greene County Tech Friday. The Tech boys are undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state by every published ranking.