SPORTS >>North Pulaski dominates briefly, fades late at CAC
Leader sports writer
For six minutes, the Falcons looked darn near invincible. The other 26 minutes would be a struggle, however, as Pulaski Academy dominated the second half of play to take an 80-65 win over North Pulaski Thursday night on Mustang Mountain during the opening round of the Ortho/Arkansas Invitational basketball tournament at Central Arkansas Christian.
The Falcons overcame an early deficit to steal complete momentum from the Bruins in the closing moments of the first quarter on their way to building an impressive 38-26 lead with 3:25 left in the first half. It would turn out to be the only swing of momentum for North Pulaski in the game, as Pulaski Academy found a way to control the boards during the second half, and found an unstoppable offensive threat in point guard Hanson Bartlett.
North Pulaski found itself in a hole right away. The Bruins rushed out to an 8-1 lead by the 5:43 mark of the first quarter, but Desmon Blair quickly evaporated that deficit for NP with three huge shots. Blairís first jumper in the paint made it 8-3, and he followed a Du Quan Bryant basket with a three pointer that pulled the Falcons to within two at 10-8. He then followed a PA turnover with another shot behind the arc to give North Pulaski its first lead of the first quarter at 11-10.
The Bruins briefly took back the lead on a basket and free throw by Spencer Keith, but Bryant tied the score again moments later with a pair of free throws with 3:01 left in the opening frame to make it 13-13. Cruise Williams got the lead back for PA on the ensuing trip with a bucket and foul, and a shot by Bartlett scored to put the Warriors back up by two scores, but a three pointer by Dave White pulled the Falcons back to within one.
Pulaski Academy still lead 19-18 with less than 30 seconds left in the first quarter, but Ridge Williams started a spark at the end of the frame that would pull the Falcons through most of the following period.
His first shot came in impressive fashion off a rebound of a missed free throw by Cliff Harrison. Harrison hit the front end of his foul line trip to pull NP to within one, but Williamsí rebound off the glass turned into one of the most dazzling plays of the game. Harrison pulled down the board underneath the goal in heavy traffic, and quickly spun to the right. He then drove back into the lane quickly and got off the shot before the PA defenders could contest. That gave the lead back to the Falcons at 20-19, but Williams was not done.
Williams got the ball off a PA turnover moments later, and sunk a three-point basket to give the Falcons a 23-19 lead heading into the second quarter.
It looked like the second quarter would belong to the Falcons. White stayed strong outside with a three pointer that lifted NP to a 27-21 advantage, and baskets by Kyron Ware and Kelvin Parker put the Falcons up by eight at 31-23 with 4:24 left in the first half.
Sophomore Aaron Cooper put the Falcons up by double digits with a pair of free throws at the 4:06 mark, and hit a basket moments later to give North Pulaski a 38-26 lead. The Warriors made a brief run with a basket by David Camp and Bartlett to cut it to six, and would make an incredible run in the final minute to tie the game at halftime 43-43.
The Falcons kept pace with Pulaski Academy in the first part of the third quarter, but the Warriors eventually built a 10-point lead, mostly from the free throw shooting prowess of Bartlett. The PA guard 10 for 14 at the charity stripe in the second half alone, drawing fouls on nearly every trip into the NP paint. He converted some baskets to add fouls for three-point plays; others were traditional two-shot fouls that he converted with good accuracy.
The Falconsí outside game had completely faded by the fourth quarter, allowing Pulaski Academy to hold court in the final eight minutes, and late fouls by NP would only increase the margin in the final minute.
Williams led the Falcons with 14 points. Cooper added 13 for North Pulaski, while Desmon Blair finished with 10 points.
Harrison added eight points, with seven points from Bryant and six for White. For PA, Bartlett led all scorers with 23 points, 13 of which came at the foul line. The Warriors advanced to play Little Rock Christian in the winnerís bracket last night, while the Falcons took on Clarksville in the consolation bracket.