Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

SPORTS >>Falcons knock off Warriors, take fifth

Leader sportswriter

The Warriors did not appear ready for battle against North Pulaski during the fifth-place consolation finals of the Ortho/Arkansas Invitational basketball tournament at Central Arkansas Christian on Saturday. The Falcons turned in a solid team performance, mixed with a runaway show from sophomore forward Da Quan Bryant on their way to a 66-53 win over Little Rock Christian Academy to close out their run in the three-day tourney. Bryant scored five points in the first 30 seconds of the contest to set the tone for North Pulaski, and went on to make plays on nearly every inch of the court to repeatedly crush Warrior attempts to put themselves back in the game.

Little Rock Christian made its runs in the second half, but never got any closer than a very brief one-point deficit toward the end of the thrid quarter. For NP coach Raymond Cooper, the confidence displayed by his team in the game was a welcomed change to the lackluster performance during the opening round on Thursday.

“We had been talking about working with a mind set of better self-discipline,” Cooper said after the game. “And talking about coming out and playing the basketball the right way – with good focus. We got them all in the same mind set, and I think they are beginning to understand that this is the way you are supposed to go out and play.”

Cooper was also able to inject his unique brand of humor in comparing Saturday’s win and Thursday’s loss.

“We have two teams at this point,” Cooper said. “The one you just saw today, that team can go out and compete with anyone in the 5A-East Conference on any given night. The one you saw Thursday, that bunch can be beaten by any team in America, including ladies’ programs.”

Byant’s performance agasint Christian in the first quarter was all bravado, as he scored eight points in the first eight minutes to lauch the Falcons to a 10-6 lead by the 4:37 mark. His first points came off the opening tip, as he took quckly took the ball down for the score and drew a foul on his way to the goal. Bryant converted the free throw, and was right back in scoring position when Joe Agee came away with a steal on the ensuing Christian possession. Agee got the pick and quickly dished it to Bryant, who found himself all alone under the bucket for the easy two.

A pair of back-to-back threes for Christian’s Mark Muncie in between a basket for NP’s Kyron Ware pulled the Warriors to within one, but Bryant would strike again, this time from the outside with a three-pointer to extend the Falcons’ lead back to four.

Cliff Harrison backed up Bryant’s early histrionics with eight points of his own in the remaining three minutes of the first frame. His shot off the glass at the 3:06 mark put the Falcons up 16-7, and a reverse move in the paint for two off a steal by Dave White gave North Pulaski its first double-digit advantage of the game at 20-10 with 50 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Warriors kept pace for most of the second quarter, and went into halftime only trailing by five at 35-30. Christian gave its biggest challenge of the game for the third quarter, and was able to pull to within one near the end of the frame. Ware enjoyed a productive run in th third quarter with six unanswered points for North Pulaski that gave the Falcons a 43-34 lead mid-way through the period, but Brad Harell mounted an outside attack in the final 2:40 of the third quarter that resulted in three consecutive three-point baskets that pulled Little Rock Christian to within one, 47-46 with 41 seconds to go until the final quarter.

Bryant closed out the game just like he started it, with a energetic performance that resulted in three steals, along with six more points. His first steal only resulted in a free throw, but he took his final pick at the 3:18 mark coast to coast for a layup to give the Falcons at 59-48 lead that only grew in the final minutes.

Bryant led all scorers for North Pulaski with 20 points, and added eight rebounds, five steals and four assists. Aaron Cooper and Ware each added 14 points, and Harrison added 12. For the Warriors, Tanner Bailey led with 19 points, while Harrell added 14 points. The win improved the Falcons’ record to 3-4 on the season.