SPORTS >>Falcons topple Devils
Leader sports editor
The North Pulaski boys were dialed in from the start, and called out Jacksonville in the second quarter en route to an 80-76 victory over arch-nemesis Jacksonville Tuesday at NPHS. The Falcons carried a 16-point advantage into halftime, which turned out to be just enough to hold off a 33-point Red Devil surge in the fourth quarter to earn the victory. The Falcons hit 15 of 17 free-throw attempts in the final period to counter Jacksonville’s offensive explosion.
North Pulaski coach Raymond Cooper credited his team’s composure and willingness to stick to the game plan for the victory.
“They were focused on what it was we had planned to do, and they stuck with it,” Cooper said. “We knew Jacksonville was coming. They always have a run that they’re going to put on you. When that came, we took a shot. I’m using fighting terminology here, but they had us wobbled. And when you’re wobbled, you throw haymakers.”
North Pulaski’s haymakers came in the form of huge three pointers by Cliff Harrison and Kyron Ware that erased much of the ground Jacksonville had gained.
Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner believes North Pulaski simply wanted to win more than his team.
“it was obvious,” Joyner said. “They got every loose ball. They out-rebounded us and they don’t have anybody on that team that can play above the time we can. They’re young, but they have a bunch of kids that have been in wars together. This team hasn’t and we’re not competitive all the time. We looked up and saw we were down, and we started playing in the fourth quarter, but we shouldn’t have been in that situation. That’s the same way we practice. Until we get someone on this team that’s going to take some intitative, recognize when we need to pick it up and be a leader, this is going to keep happening.”
The two teams took a while to get going offensively, and both got hot at the end of the first quarter. The period ended with the Falcons leading 13-12, but it was all North Pulaski in the second quarter.
The Falcons started the period on a 6-0 run sparked by two transition layups by Cooper. Another bucket in traffic by Ridge Williams turned a 13-12 lead into a 19-12 advantage with 5:56 left in the half.
Jacksonville’s Cortrell Eskridge broke the run with two free throws, but it was only a temporary pause in the NP blitz.
Kyron Ware nailed a three pointer with 3:40 to make it 26-17 and that set off a 12-1 Falcon run.
Miles made another free throw to make it 26-18, and NP scored the next nine straight points.
Daquan Bryant made it a 10-point game with an offensive rebound and stickback. After an Appleby missed three, Ware made two free throws. Miles then missed a three on Jacksonville’s end Bryant got another putback to make it 32-18. After another fruitless trip downthe floor for the Red Devils, Williams got the rebound, sent the outlet pass to Jo Agee, who then found Williams trailing the action for a three pointer to give NP its biggest lead of the game at 35-18 and force a Jacksonville timeout with 1:57 left in the half.
The action settled down from that point with both teams in the double bonus, and the two teams went into intermission with NP leading 39-23.
Jacksonville made a run to start the third quarter, but the two three pointers pushed NP back out to a 13-point margin at the 2:22 mark of the period. Jacksonville’s final bucket was the closest the game had been since early in the second quarter.
Aaron Cooper led all scorers with 25 points, including 15 of 15 shooting from the foul line.
Ridge Williams turned in a double-double with 15 points and 11 boards, while Harrison also contributed 15. Ware added 11 for the Falcons while DaQuan Bryant scored eight.
LaQuentin Miles led Jacksonville with 18 points while Terrell Eskridge and DeShone McClure scored 16 apiece. Antwan Lockhart added 11 for the Red Devils.
The two teams will meet again next Tuesday, this time in the Devils’ Den at Jacksonville High.