Leader Blues

Friday, February 26, 2010

SPORTS >> It’s tails; North Pulaski draws second seed

Christian Knight (right) tries to dribble around a defender in a recent game.

Leader sports editor

North Pulaski did its part to keep pace in the race for a No. 1 seed to the state tournament.

But luck and the U.S. mint had other plans for the Falcons.

Little Rock McClellan won a coin toss between the two 5A-Southeast schools Wednesday and claimed the conference’s top spot to the state tournament that begins at Alma on Tuesday. North Pulaski, the state runner-up last year, is the No. 2 seed and will face the No. 3 seed from the West in its first game at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.

“That’s why I stay away from Tunica,” said Falcons coach Raymond Cooper, who called heads and watched the toss come up tails for McClellan coach Chris Threatt.

The coin toss, originally planned for Friday, was instead held at the 5A coaches meeting in White Hall. The outcome was contingent on North Pulaski beating White Hall in its season finale, a makeup game at White Hall last Thursday night.

With a loss North Pulaski would have been the 5A-Southeast’s second seed anyway.

The Falcons took care of their end of things with a 56-27 victory after beating White Hall 74-49 in a regularly scheduled game at North Pulaski on Tuesday night.

North Pulaski (23-5, 13-1) and McClellan (24-3, 13-1) split their season series, beating each other by three points each time, to wipe out the primary, head-to-head tie-breaker. With this week’s games the Falcons made sure they stayed even in the second tie-breaker — points scored against conference opponents up to 10.

The Falcons mercy-ruled White Hall at North Pulaski on Tuesday and got their better than 10-point victory over the Bulldogs last Thursday to officially end the season tied with McClellan.

“You really hate to be playing games worrying about how many points you lose by, or win by,” Cooper said. “The reality is that we don’t want to give it away. We’ve got to be focused and be conscious of it.”

Except for one second-half lapse, North Pulaski appeared focused and conscious in its final home game Tuesday night. The Falcons took a 25-16 lead after one quarter and ran away in the second period, outscoring the Bulldogs 19-3 to take a 44-19 halftime lead.

Marvin Davis made a three-pointer with 4:42 left to give North Pulaski a 74-44 lead and start the continually running clock under the mercy rule.

“You can’t defend them all,” White Hall coach Joe Stacey said of North Pulaski’s veteran roster featuring six seniors and two juniors. “They have too many. We’ve caged people this year, box and one. You can’t cage them, they’ve got too many weapons.”

Cooper’s only complaint was for what he saw as a mental lapse in the third quarter as White Hall got a few too many uncontested shots for Cooper’s liking. After White Hall’s 6-5 sophomore center Jeremy Sprinkle got a steal and a layup, Cooper pulled the five players he had on the floor for reserves and had words with his first five on the bench.

“What I was trying to drive the point home to them is those things can become habit,” Cooper said. “You get up on a team in the state tournament and those teams are not going to quit. You’ve got to keep playing through the game.”

Aaron Cooper led the Falcons with 18 points, scoring eight on free throws, while Bryan Colson scored 14 and Kryon Ware had 13. Sprinkle scored 15 for White Hall, all in the third quarter, and Cameron Stone also scored 15.

“It’s not fun. They’re extremely talented,” Stacey said. “We’ve played them and McClellan. Two peas in a pod. They look like each other. They have a lot of depth and that’s what hurt us. We have about six ballplayers.”

North Pulaski concluded its season with a stretch that included a Saturday makeup game with Sylvan Hills and Thursday’s makeup with White Hall, along with its regularly scheduled conference games.

Other than the 67-64 loss at McClellan on Feb. 16, the Falcons outscored their opponents in that span by an average 30.6 points.