SPORTS >> Falcons go small to beat Comets big
Leader sports editor
North Pulaski entered Friday’s game against with Mills with questions.
The Flacons left with answers.
Playing without injured inside man Daquan Bryant, North Pulaski used a smaller, faster lineup to run away from Mills in a 73-43, 5A-Southeast Conference victory at North Pulaski.
With Bryant, nursing a knee injury, on the bench in street clothes and a bowtie in a nod to basketball homecoming festivities, the Falcons started sophomore Courvoica Allen and turned in a group rebounding effort.
“I was really pleased,” North Pulaski coach Raymond Cooper said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was kind of a little nervous at the start of the game. We started a sophomore who hadn’t played very much all season long. I figured now would be the time rather than sit him on the bench and let him wait.
“Go ahead and start him, and he really responded for us.”
Allen delivered four points while the Falcons banded together to pick up the rebounding slack for the absent Bryant.
“We were worried about rebounding and our depth inside so what we tried to do was try to do it by committee,” Cooper said.
“We had to really commit to little things like boxing out because Daquan is such a unique athlete you can’t replace whim with one guy.
“So we talked about all of us, between his 12 rebounds a game, everybody’s got to get one more and that’s what we kept preaching was one more.”
North Pulaski responded so effectively that it took a 65-35 lead into the fourth quarter, which was played with a fast-moving clock under the high school sportsmanship/timing rule.
“We shot the ball well, which really covers up a lot of stuff,” Cooper said. “We defended them well and we rebounded.”
In fact, Cooper said, the Falcons (17-4, 8-0) didn’t just get by without Bryant, they may have found another effective facet of their game.
“We knew we were going to be outsized, and to get those rebounds and what those rebounds did, they started our break,” Cooper said. “And one thing I found out, was when we got smaller, we got faster and so that was a plus. Now I may have found a lineup that I normally would never use.”
For Mills coach Leo Olberts, the Falcons, ranked No. 1 in 5A, were already deadly enough without a new look.
“You don’t get to be No. 1 in the state unless you’ve got a pretty good bunch and they certainly do,” Olberts said. “They’ve got so many guys who can shoot the basketball, that’s the thing. Defensively, it seems like no matter what you do, they’ve got an answer for it. It’s not just against us, it’s against everybody they play.”
Aaron Cooper made four three-pointers and led North Pulaski with 24 points and Bryan Colson scored 13. Kyle Jackson and Chris Neal scored eight points apiece for Mills, with Jackson getting six on free throws.
Mills fell to 9-12, 4-5.
“We’ve won our last four coming into to tonight and we’ve just go to forget about this one and take care of business the rest of the way,” Olberts said.
Mills rallied from an early, 11-2 deficit to go ahead 14-13 on Neal’s midcourt steal and dunk with 2:36 left in the first quarter.
But that may have been the highlight for Mills as Colson got a rebound and putback to start a 21-0 run that ended with Joe Agee’s steal and breakaway layup for the 34-14 lead with 6:01 left in the second quarter.
Shyheim Barron drove a basket that made it 65-35 at the end of the third quarter, and the 30-point lead triggered the mercy rule at the start of the fourth.