SPORTS >>Another season of hoops underway
Leader sports editor
The annual Jacksonville preseason basketball jamboree turned out to be a good one for the host team. It involved several teams from the local area and Mountain Home. North Pulaski also took part in the event, along with McClellan, Central and LR Parkview.
While the Red Devils impressed their head coach, the Falcons did not, at least offensively.
North Pulaski started Saturday’s event against Mountain Home. Each team played one half of basketball against two other teams. Final scores were kept, but winning and losing weren’t what coaches were concerned with.
NP lost its halves, falling 25-23 to the Bombers, then losing 21-20 to Little Rock Central.
The Falcon defense gave both teams fits, but the offense wasn’t what head Falcon Raymond Cooper was wanting to see.
“I liked the two teams we played because we got to see two totally different styles,” Cooper said. “And we didn’t handle either one of them that well.”
The big and physical Bombers overpowered the small Falcons early, while Central’s pressure caused some problems for the NP offense.
“I told the guys how physical they (the Bombers) were going to be, but they didn’t realize it until they got out there,” Cooper said. “They were setting screens and being real physical and weren’t getting through them. We were just running into them and stopping. I think we got a little overwhelmed with that early. I liked that we came back late. That was something for us to build off of.”
North Pulaski fell behind 13-4 in the first quarter. They made a furious charge in the second quarter, but lackluster free-throw shooting ultimately cost them a win. NP took a brief two-point lead, but when the Bombers fouled, the Falcons couldn’t make them pay.
NP hit just four of 12 foul shots against Mountain Home, and three of nine against Central.
Against the Tigers, NP again found itself in an early hole, though not as big as against Mountain Home. The Tigers jumped ahead 11-5 before NP again charged late only to come up short.
“We did not execute our press break one time,” Cooper said. “Our press offense looked more like a fire drill than an offense. I was pretty disappointed in that. I did like our defensive pressure. We were out of position a few times, but the defensive effort was good.”
The lack of offensive execution showed in the scores.
“Forty-three points is not enough for what we do,” Cooper said. “If we’re held to 43 points, that’s not going to win us many games. We need to be up in the 60s.”
Jacksonville almost got into the 60s in its first half against McClellan, scoring 54 points, but only winning by four.
The Red Devils lost 36-24 to Parkview to close the night, but head coach Vic Joyner was pleased with his team’s overall effort.
“The first five I put out there did better than I expected on offense,” Joyner said. “Considering I’ve shortened practices and they haven’t had as much time to prepare, I was pleased with how they played.”
Jacksonville cruised to a big lead over the Lions before letting up and allowing a late comeback. Against Parkview, Jacksonville led by six until midway through the second half. That’s when the Patriots charged and took over the game.
“We didn’t sub a lot so we basically ran out of gas,” Joyner said. “We competed well. We got a little lackadaisical on defense at times, and I think a couple of the younger ones got a little nervous, but we competed and we executed the offense better than I expected.”
The highlight of the night came on a baseline drive and dunk by Red Devil point guard Terrell Eskridge. Eskridge took his man off the dribble, drove baseline and slammed it home against Parkview’s center.
“That shocked me to death,” Joyner said. “It shocked everybody in there. I’ve been watching that kid try to dunk every day in practice for two years, and he’s never done it. It really shocked that big man he dunked on.”
Along with the starting five of Terrell Eskridge, Cortrell Eskridge, Antonion Roy, Quentin Miles and DeShone McClure, Joyner said junior guard Allen Kirby did a good job off the bench.
“The starting five and Allen Kirby played pretty well,” Joyner said. “We’ve got some other guys on the bench that aren’t ready yet. Hopefully some of them will have a chance to step up and show us they can get in there.”