Leader Blues

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

SPORTS>> Lady Falcons survive

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

What once appeared to be a throwaway season for the North Pulaski Lady Falcons is now looking up.

The Lady Falcons suffered through a seven-player roster and seven straight losses to start the season, but added help in theform of three new varsity players came just in time for the start of 5A-Southeast Conference play.
So far, so good.

North Pulaski held on for a 49-48 win over Mills on Friday night at the Falcons’ Nest for their first victory of the season.

“Just the attitude change here the past week has made coaching fun for me,” Lady Falcons coach Todd Romaine said. “And for the girls, I think its made basketball fun for them, which is the most important thing, but I don’t think basketball has been fun for the girls around here for a long time. And I think that this week they found what they needed.

“It’s a long season, and there are a lot of good teams in this conference, but we have high expectations, and hopefully we will keep getting better.”

Bianca Harper’s running jumper with 15 seconds left gave the Lady Falcons a 49-47 lead. Mills missed a chance to tie seconds later, and North Pulaski got it back.

But after being trapped by the Lady Comets’ press, guard Haley Hudson attempted to call time-out. North Pulaski had used all of theirs already and the technical sent Mills to the line with four seconds left and a chance to tie.

Only the front end was made to make it 49-48, and Laura Dortch stole the inbounds pass to seal the win.

“We didn’t hit our free throws,” said Romaine. “We worked on our free-throw shooting all week. Free throws before practice, free throws after practice, free throws during practice, and we just didn’t hit them.

“I’ve never seen us shoot free throws like that. I really don’t think that game should have been that close, not because that team isn’t good, we just didn’t hit our free throws.”

The Lady Falcons ended up 15 of 39 from the foul line, 6 of 15 in the fourth quarter.

Harper’s 18-point, five-rebound and three-steal performance led the way for North Pulaski, along with a double-double performance by post player Rae Robinson, who scored 10 points, and had 11 rebounds.

Taking care of the ball is what paid the biggest dividend for the Lady Falcons down the stretch. They had 13 giveaways to Mills’ 12 in the first half, but cut their turnovers down to only six in the second half, while the Lady Comets went on to commit 27 overall.

New addition Keyera Springs added nine points for North Pulaski, with seven from Dortch, who also had 10 rebounds and three assists. Jazmine Perkins led the way for Mills with 16 points.

Mills led most of the way in the first half, but never by more than four. Frequent turnovers and rushed shot selection for both teams made the first half a dizzying trip back and forth on the floor.

The Lady Comets got their biggest lead of the first half in the final minute on a 10-2 run that set the halftime margin at 36-29.

Robinson’s rebound basket and a pair of free throws finally tied the game late in the third period.

Romaine said it’s not just the added bodies, but also an im-proved outlook that has helped to change the pendulum’s direction.

“This past week, we had all 10 players at practice every day,” Romaine said. “And we worked hard this week. We didn’t play over the holiday, so they were out of sync in the first half. I’m looking forward to this season. I think we have a chance to improve greatly.”

The win improved North Pulaski to 1-7 overall and 1-0 in the 5A Southeast Conference, while the Lady Comets fell to 1-6, 0-1.

The Lady Falcons played at Beebe last night and will be at Crossett on Friday.