Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

SPORTS >>Wrong shot thwarts NP at Robinson

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

The Lady Falcons needed the miracle foul that did not come in the closing moments against Little Rock Christian during their first-round game of the Robinson Invitational at PRHS on Monday afternoon. Trailing 50-47 with nine seconds left in the game, North Pulaski bet against its struggling outside game with a drive into the lane by Neisha Rigdeway. Instead, Quanita Hale’s follow-up move to the basket went uncontested by the Lady Warriors, and the shot fell as time expired to give LRCA the narrowest of wins at 50-49.

Despite the final score, the Lady Falcons owned the entire second half. A slow chipping into the Lady Warriors’ lead in the early stages of the third quarter switched to a full-on assualt on LRCA by the Lady Falcons in the final minute of the quarter.

North Pulaski got the most out of its efforts on the full court press that began at the 1:03 mark of the third quarter. In that minute, the Lady Falcons quickly closed LRCA’s 44-33 lead down to a 46-40 advantage heading into the final quarter. It took most of the final eight minutes to erase that interval before time ran out on North Pulaski’s momentum-stealing efforts.

For Lady Falcons coach Todd Romaine, the loss was a bad end result, but the solid performance in the second half meant more than an early season W.

“That’s not the play we drew up in the huddle,” Romaine said of the final shot. “We had a three-point shot drawn up, but she took it inside. She felt pretty bad about the whole thing, and she apoligized to her teammates for that and the free throws.”

The apology for the free throws was in reference to Ridgeway’s 0 for 8 performance at the line in the second half. She was not alone, as Ashlyn Corney was the only Lady Falcon to convert a free throw in the final two periods. In all, 1 for 13 at the foul line in the second half was the only thing that kept North Pulaski from the winners bracket.

Romaine says the drudgery of the first half has become a calling card for his team, one he hoped to break before league play in the 5A-East Conference.

“We start out slow” Romaine said. “Once we get our legs under us, we’re competitive. I think our quickness helps. I think they played their hearts out for us tonight, but they are just now beginning to realize the importance of working on shooting. We don’t have a really stong scoring threat, but they rebound well and are good defenders. They definately don’t have any quit, and I think they proved that just now. By the time conference rolls around, I think we can be contenders.”

The near-comeback was even more impressive when you consider that the Lady Falcons’ strongest rebounder was forced to sit out of the game.

Sophomore post Laura Dortch suffered a twisted ankle during last week’s game against Jacksonville, but the NP reserves did a solid job of outrebounding the Lady Warriors, particularly on the defensive side.

Even with some late struggles, Ridgeway’s performance overall had the same heroic moments the Lady Falcon faithful have come to expect from the senior during the second half, including the first points of the third quarter. Ridgeway’s three pointer at the 6:22 mark began the slow erasure of LRCA’s 32-20 halftime lead back into single digits.

A shot by Jae Tucker pushed the Lady Warriors’ lead back to 11, and a layup by Megan Baker moments later pushed the lead back up to 13 at 36-23.

Little Rock Christian held on by 11 until the 1:03 mark, when a three pointer by Brittney Crutchfield sparked a Lady Falcon rally that would change the entire mood of the game. The Lady Warriors responded badly to the NP press with four-straight turnovers in the final minute.

This led to another pair of baskets for Crutchfield, and the final steal by Ridgeway in the last 10 seconds was almost converted as well. Ridgeway got the ball out to Crutchfield for a wide-open shot under the basket, but the buzzer sounded just before release.

Bianca Harper led the Lady Falcons with 14 points, with 13 pionts from Crutchfield. Jae Tucker led LRCA with 12 points. The Lady Falsons are now 1-5 on the season, and will take on Joe T. Thursday night. The Lady Warriors are 3-2 on the year.