Leader Blues

Monday, November 26, 2007

SPORTS >>Falcons lose to Robinson; second time in five days

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

For the second time in five days North Pulaski lost a close one to Pulaski Robinson Friday. After falling to the Senators in the Stuttgart Invitational, the Falcons dropped an 84-81 decision in overtime at Robinson High in Little Rock.

North Pulaski coach Raymond Cooper was upset last week about his team losing to a team it had beaten several times over the summer in camps, but learned that the Senators added a couple of players to the roster since then, players who have made an impact.

“Actually, taking a good close look, they have a pretty good team,” Cooper said. “We did a lot better than we did the first time, but we still have a long way to go.”

Cooper noted the 84 points given up.

“I know it was overtime, but we haven’t given up 84 points since I’ve been here,” Cooper said. “Even that first team I had that wasn’t really very good, that team still played hard on defense. We have to get better than we’ve been.”

Cooper still isn’t too down on the team, taking the bulk of the blame for the poor defense.

“I’m not trying to make excuses for the players, they still have to take some responsibility, but most of it is my fault,” Cooper said. “I’ve focused more on offense than defense so far. You can see that because we’re actually being too aggressive. We’re gambling too much and trying to steal every ball, and we’re giving up easy shots. From here until January, the main focus of every practice is going to be defense.”

Robinson built a 12-point lead in the first half and went into intermission holding a 41-29 advantage. Most of the damage in the first half was done on the inside, where Robinson posted up its 6-foot-8 center on a series of Falcon guards.

North Pulaski’s two biggest players, which are only 6-3 and 6-2, spent much of the game in foul trouble.

Starting post DaQuan Bryant played only 12 minutes of the game.

North Pulaski was able to counter from the outside in the third quarter. It’s an understatement to say that sophomore guard Aaron Cooper got hot. Cooper hit five three pointers in the third quarter alone, sparking a 26-point period for the Falcons.
It still wasn’t enough for a lead, but at 58-55 heading into the fourth, it was much closer than it had been in the first half.
When time expired, the scoreboard read 74-74, and North Pulaski took early control in the extra frame.

With less than a minute remaining, North Pulaski led 81-77, Robinson ended the game on a 7-0 run.

Trailing by four, Robinson missed the front end of a one-and-one and NP got the rebound. The whistle then blew, and NP was called for a violation for talking to the shooter. Cooper argued that his team was talking to each other about who would block out the shooter, but it fell on deaf ears, and Robinson got another opportunity at the line.

This time, both were good and it became an 81-79 game.

NP was fouled and missed its free-throw, but got the ball back by forcing a turnover.

The Falcons gave it right back on the inbound play when an NP player ran down the baseline looking for an open teammate.
Robinson answered by hitting a three pointer to take the lead for the first time in OT.

NP missed at the other end and had to foul. Robinson hit both free throws to set the final margin.

Cooper reiterated that he feels his team showed definite signs of improvement.

“I’m not happy about being 0-3 by any means, but it may be good for us now,” Cooper said. “It’s going to make us a take a good look at what we’re doing wrong and give us an urgency to correct it. The effort was there Friday, and when you’re getting that effort, you can stop worrying about that and get to work on the execution.”

Neither team shot well from the floor, and both were terrible at the free-throw line. Robinson made 23 of 43 attempts at the foul line, while North Pulaski was even worse. The Falcons made just 10 of 24 from the charity stripe.

Cooper led the Falcons with 25 points while Kelvin Parker added 15.

Graylon Smith and Stephan Orange scored 19 apiece for Robinson.

North Pulaski will host crosstown rival Jacksonville next Tuesday.