Leader Blues

Thursday, January 24, 2008

SPORTS >> Falcons fall in shortened game

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

For North Pulaski, it was a game that started well and never actually ended.

The Falcons fell to Greene County Tech, 71-57, on Friday night in a tension-filled road game that was called with 28 seconds left.

“When you go there, sometimes it’s a tough place to play,” said North Pulaski head coach Ray Cooper, who has tried to contact the Arkansas Activities Association about the premature ending of the game, as well as the behavior of some of the Tech fans. “The fans were yelling racial slurs. And this was on Martin Luther King Day. It was a volatile deal. They had to bring a bus around back and get us out the back door.”

The tensions began when the Falcons, down 11 with under two minutes left after six consecutive GCT free throws, began to foul.

“They probably had the game won by then, but we were trying to get the ball back and cut into the lead because point totals matter [for tiebreaks in determining postseason seeding],” Cooper said. “One of their kids swung an elbow at [North Pulaski player] Ridge Williams and the referee stepped in between them. I was asking the referee what happened and their coach started yelling at our bench.”

That’s when the referees decided to call the game with 28 seconds still remaining.

North Pulaski, which along with GCT is 3-1 in the 5A-East, threatened to take any potential drama out of the game early when it raced to a 24-10 lead midway through the second period.

But the Eagles rallied to cut the halftime margin to 26-22. NP still led by four entering the final period, and was up five with four minutes left. But the Eagles rallied again and took a five-point lead, still with plenty of time left.

“They had a player fall down with the ball,” Cooper said. “I asked the referee why that wasn’t traveling and he gave me a technical. I’m not sure why he did that. We fouled them a couple of times and they hit six free throws in a row to go up by 11.”
Cooper said no players threw any punches and that he was proud of his team for maintaining its poise.

“Our guys kind of jumped up when the kid swung his elbow, but we made them sit down,” Cooper explained. “I think they did a good job of not retaliating.”

Aaron Cooper hit five three-pointers to lead the Falcons with 22 points. Daquan Bryant added 16 and Williams seven for NP, which was 10-6 overall heading into last night’s game at Beebe.

GCT girls 57, North Pulaski 41

PARAGOULD — The North Pulaski Lady Falcons keep turning in strong showings, but with little to show for it.

For the second straight game, the North Pulaski girls were right in a game at halftime before fading in the second half.

A week ago Tuesday, it was Batesville who pulled away in the second half for a double-digit lead. Last Friday, the Lady Falcons trailed by only four at intermission, but were outscored 18-4 in the third period by a tough Greene County Tech team in a 57-41 loss.

“We played really well,” said NP head coach Todd Romaine, whose team fell to 2-12 overall and 0-4 in the 5A-East. “They played pretty hard from start to finish. We just couldn’t get any shots to drop.”

Romaine counted five consecutive missed layups in the third period when the Lady Eagles began to pull away. That, and a 34-16 free throw disadvantage, was just too much too overcome.

Quinita Hale led NP with 15 points, while Laura Dortch added 10 and Naishia Ridgeway eight.

“We’re just such a young team and have so many sophomores,” Romaine said. “[Boys head coach Ray Cooper] said to me the other day we tend to play to our competition. We just have to learn to take the lead and go with it. But this was the first game we lost where I thought we played as hard as we could.”

As a result, Romaine was able to take plenty of encouragement away from an otherwise disappointing setback.

“I told the girls that a loss is painful but we can learn from it,” Romain said. “Last year, we were losing games by an average of 28 points. This year, we’ve lost several by two or three points. I’m optimistic that if we can keep this team together, and get some of those girls from Northwood [Middle School], we can build a program here.

“I figured coming into this season that we’d be competitive. How many wins that gets us is a question mark.”