Leader Blues

Friday, January 23, 2009

SPORTS>>Balanced attack leads North Pulaski past Bears

By JASON KING
Leader sports writer

The North Pulaski Falcons kept their perfect 5A-Southeast Conference record intact with a 55-40 win over Sylvan Hills on Tuesday night at the Falcons’ Nest.

A dominant third quarter which saw the Bears (7-9, 2-2) make only one goal from the floor allowed North Pulaski (13-5, 4-0) to stretch its 29-20 halftime lead to a comfortable 43-24 advantage entering the final period.

The absence of senior P.J. Ross and junior post Taylor Beeman hurt the Bears against the more physical Falcons. Ross, who sustained a hyper-extended ankle five days earlier at White Hall, joined Beeman on the bench. Beeman, Sylvan Hills’ leading rebounder, also suffered an ankle injury earlier in conference play.

The Falcons simply got more looks in the game, and took advantage of those looks when they presented themselves. They shot 38 percent from the field (22 of 57), while Sylvan Hills managed only 27 percent (12 of 44).

The lane was a busy place for both teams. Falcon guards Aaron Cooper and Kyron Ware each made a pair of three-pointers, with Kolby Davis and Deundre Bryant each hitting one time behind the arc for Sylvan Hills, but the rest of the points for both teams came either inside the key or at the foul line.

“I didn’t tell them not to shoot from the outside,” said Falcons coach Ray Cooper. “We like to get it inside first and then outside, and I think they overcompensated a little. We were forcing the ball instead of allowing it to happen. It all goes back to being mentally sharp and knowing what you’re doing.”

North Pulaski shot 4 of 12 from three-point range, while the Bears went 2 of 9.

Despite the win, coach Cooper was not pleased with the effort early on from his team.

“Overall, we have been starting games poorly,” said Cooper. “I don’t know what it is that we’ve got to do to get the guys to understand that they’ve got to prepare for the beginning of the game. It’s becoming a habit, and obviously, I’m the only one that’s bothered by it.

Maybe I’m being too liberal with playing time, maybe I need to tighten it up. I don’t know what it is, but I do understand that you have to maintain your focus, especially in conference games.”

The difference in depth began to show in the second half. Duquan Bryant’s repeated drives inside resulted in seven of his nine points. His first did not come until the 4:09 mark to put the Falcons up 33-22. He then followed a Bryan Coulson basket with a pair of free throws with 2:38 left in the third to extend the lead to 37-22.

The second quarter was the most productive for Sylvan Hills. Ahmad Scott scored at the 6:15 mark to get things started, and a Demetric Gross basket with 4:37 left in the half made it 19-11 North Pulaski.

Harold Ward ended the half with a pair of baskets, and guard Nick Zimmerman made a jumper to cut it to 23-18 with 1:52 left in the second quarter, but that was as close as the Bears came for the remainder of the night.

Cooper ended the period for North Pulaski with a three-point shot, and got another a minute into the fourth quarter. That concluded a 15-2 run for the Falcons to put them up 48-24 with 6:52 left to play, the rest was formality.

Cooper led the Falcons with 16 points and had four steals. Bryant added nine rebounds, six of which came in the first half, to his nine points. Ware scored eight for North Pulaski.

For Sylvan Hills, Harold Ward led the way with 10 points, with nine for Alonte Mitchell. Demetric Gross had seven for the Bears.

North Pulaski played at Monticello last night, and will host Jacksonville on Monday. Sylvan Hills hosted Mills last night, and will host Beebe on Tuesday.