Leader Blues

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

SPORTS > > Struggling North Pulaski routed at Blytheville for fourth loss in five games

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

The flu bug that has made its way through the North Pulaski roster — it has visited several players twice — couldn’t have come at a worse time in the season.

The Falcons began to fall two weeks ago during a critical road game at Greene County Tech, and they haven’t stopped falling yet. The result has been four losses in five games, the latest one coming on Friday night in an 81-51 shellacking at the hands of Blytheville.

The Falcons, who remain in fifth place in the 5A-East, one game behind Nettleton, were victimized by the torrid shooting of Gabriel Osagie, who scored the Chickasaws’ first 16 points, and finished with 25.

“He was hitting shots from everywhere,” said NP coach Ray Cooper, whose Falcons fell to 4-4 in league play, 11-9 overall. “But our problem was mainly us. We didn’t do a good job of identifying where he was or crowding him.

“And we played with a lack of effort and a lack of intensity in a big game. We knew they’d be up for us after beating them at home.”

That came on Jan. 4 on Kelvin Parker’s buzzer-beating game winner.

The only thing dramatic about this one was the reversal of fortunes for each team. Blytheville (5-2 and tied for second with GCT) jumped out to an 18-12 lead after one, which it expanded to 39-23 at halftime.

“We gave up 20 points a quarter in the game,” Cooper said. “We pretty much let them do what they wanted to do.”

The Falcons were playing without big man Carlos Donley, as well as without Kyron Ware. Both had the flu. Three others p layed, despite sufferingfrom the illness that has plagued many Arkansas’ schools over the past several weeks.

NP had reached the top of the standings at 3-0 before suffering a road setback at Greene County Tech on Jan. 18, followed by two home losses in as many days last week.

The Falcons lost on a last-second shot to first-place Wynne on Jan. 29, then were sluggish in a loss to Nettleton at home the following night.

“We’re looking at it now like we have to win out,” Cooper said. “Anything other than that leaves it in other people’s hands. Every game is like a championship game for us from now on. We have to play that way.”
If any good news came out of the Blytheville game, it is that sharp-shooting Aaron Cooper appears to have broken out of a slump.

Cooper scored only five against Wynne and eight against Nettleton. He poured in 21 on Friday.

But he was the only Falcon in double figures. Daquan Bryant scored eight points and T.J. Green seven.

“We’ve got every other team on the schedule except Blytheville left,” Ray Cooper said. “The other teams all play each other so somebody’s got to lose. We can’t control any of that. We know we’ve got to win.

“We’re very young, but we’re going to have to grow up fast.”
BLYTHEVILLE GIRLS 63, NORTH PULASKI 39

The Lady Falcons got 15 points from Quanita Hale, but it wasn’t nearly enough as the NP girls fell to 3-15 overall, 1-7 in league play.

NP played with the Lady Chicks through the first half, trailing by eight points after one and by 10 at intermission.

“We played hard, and we handled their press really well,” said NP head coach Todd Romaine. “We didn’t turn the ball over much at all.”

Romaine was without Brittney Crutchfield, who not only averages 10 points a game, but is a good defensive player, Romaine said.

“We had several kids sick,” he said. “A lot of people got playing time who don’t play that much. The sickness that’s going around really hurts our rotation.”