Leader Blues

Friday, February 06, 2009

SPORTS>>Falcons get defensive, stay perfect in conference

By Jason King
Leader sportswriter

High-powered offense has been the North Pulaski Falcons’ calling card this season, but that took a backseat to solid defensive play in Tuesday’s 68-47 home win over Beebe in 5A-Southeast Conference play.

The Falcons (16-5, 7-0) held Beebe (12-6, 4-3) without a field goal from the 1:23 mark of the first quarter until the 5:26 mark of the third quarter. A pair of free throws by Devonte Young in the final 30 seconds was the only thing the Badgers had to show for the second quarter.

The win keeps the Falcons perfect in league play and tied for first place with Little Rock McClellan in the conference standings, while Beebe, at 4-3, is now tied with Sylvan Hills and Mills for third.

“I thought defensively that was our best effort,” said North Pulaski coach Raymond Cooper. “There wasn’t a whole lot of gambling, it was just solid defense. We communicated better. We didn’t have the breakdowns, and then when we did have the breakdowns, we communicated and were able to recover. And so I’m really pleased with that.”

Despite the stellar defensive effort in the first half, the Falcons did not put the game away until they outscored Beebe 25-10 in the third quarter. Kyron Ware single-handedly outscored the Badgers with 11 points in that period, mostly off transition opportunities.

“I think that defense carried us, because we were really ragged offensively in the first half,” Cooper said. “They had a good game plan. They packed it in real tight, and we didn’t adjust to it there at first.

“I was thinking that we weren’t playing very good, and I looked up at the scoreboard and saw that they only had fourteen points, and that’s when I said I’m looking at the wrong thing. Because if we’re holding a team to only 14 points in a half, we’re doing some things right.”

It was point guard Joe Agee that kept the Falcons’ offense going early on, while Beebe enjoyed balanced scoring. Six Badgers found their way to the hoop in the first eight minutes, while Agee kept pace with a pair of three-point baskets and an inside jumper for eight of his 11 points in the game.

Zach Kersey finished with 17 points for the Badgers, but 11 of those came in the fourth quarter after North Pulaski had already put the game away. The senior shooting guard received plenty of attention from the Falcons in the first three periods, as they held Beebe’s dynamic scorer to only six points during that time.

“He’s the kind of kid that you’ve got to be aware of at all times,” Cooper said. “Because he’s got so much range. And then he’s deceptive because if you approach him wrong, he will put it on the floor and get to the basket.

“Even when we were rotating, we made sure if you were the next one, even if it wasn’t your guy, that you would leave your guy and get him. We wanted to run him off the three-point line and make him pass to someone that we were banking on wasn’t as good a shooter.”

Ware started the third quarter with a three-point shot that put the Falcons up 25-14, and extended the lead to 29-14 at the 5:43 mark when he scored off a steal and dish from Aaron Cooper.

He had two more inside shots before he capped the period off with a dunk, once again assisted by Cooper, which put the Falcons up 40-18.

Agee hit the last of his threes in the final two minutes, and Cooper got a steal that he took all the way to give North Pulaski a 47-24 lead at the end of three.

“My hat’s off to the kids,” Cooper said. “That’s the best we’ve stuck to a game plan all year long. The things we’ve talked about all season – they’re finally starting to get it.”

Ware led the Falcons with 18 points. Cooper joined Agee with 11 points and had four steals. T.J. Green led rebounding with 11 boards, while junior Duquan Bryant finished with six points and five rebounds.

For Beebe, Kersey led with 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Anthony Forte added eight points for the Badgers.

BEEBE GIRLS 62,
NORTH PULASKI 44

Senior guard Ty O’Neill led the way for the Lady Badgers with 23 points, including an 11-point outburst in the second quarter.

The Lady Falcons were outscored 20-9 in the decisive second quarter, and trailed 31-14 at halftime. Two North Pulaski players finished in double figures. Bianca Harper led with 22 points, with 15 from Laura Dortch.

Beebe sophomore post Danna Jackson added 16 points for a career best, and Amanda Wheeler finished with nine. Megan Martinez had eight points, including a 4-of-5 performance at the foul line for half of her points.

The Lady Badgers are 12-9 overall and 7-0 in the 5A-Southeast Conference, still tied for first with Sylvan Hills. The Lady Falcons fell to 1-6 in league play.

North Pulaski played at Mills last night, and will play at Sylvan Hills on Tuesday. Beebe hosted Crossett last night, and will be at McClellan on Friday.