SPORTS >> Yellowjackets flummox Falcons
By LELAND BARCLAY
Special to The Leader
ALMA — As difficult as it was for the North Pulaski Falcons last year after losing in the Class 5A championship game, it was even worse Saturday night.
Wynne’s Calene Scott hit a three-pointer at the buzzer in overtime to lift Wynne to a 55-54 win over the Falcons in the semifinals of the Class 5A state tournament at Alma.
“I’m really sad for my seniors,” North Pulaski head coach Raymond Cooper said. “I’ve got a group of seniors that fought hard last year to get to the state championship game, and then to have this happen the way that it did. For them to even have a lead and have a chance to win the game at the end is absolutely miraculous under the circumstances that they had to fight through.”
Wynne hit 24 of 32 free throws with North Pulaski’s Daquan Bryant and Bryan Colson fouling out. North Pulaski was 14 of 21 from the free-throw line.
North Pulaski led 52-48 in the opening minute of overtime on a leaner by I.J. Ready and two free throws by Kyron Ware, but Jordan Weaver hit two free throws for Wynne with 2:28 left. North Pulaski missed with 1:40 left and Weaver added two more free throws after being fouled on the rebound to tie the game 52-52.
North Pulaski ran the clock down until Ware was fouled with 13 seconds left. Ware hit both free throws to put the Falcons up 54-52 before Scott hit the game-winner for Wynne, taking a pass and launching the shot as the buzzer sounded.
“We wanted to get the ball to Jordan,” Wynne head coach Bobby Gross said. “We wanted to get to the lane, get fouled and make it a three-point play. We tried to get a ball screen and they switched on us. They did a great job. Calene made a great shot.
Players make plays.”
Scott’s game-winner was Wynne’s first field goal since 4:20 was left in the fourth quarter. Wynne hit 10 of 12 free throws in that span.
“Anybody that was at this ballgame saw what happened,” Cooper said. “I had an official that wouldn’t even let me talk to him.
There’s another coach that’s running up and down the floor on the court, and I’m being warned about being in the box talking to my trainer. It was one-sided, and it was one-sided the whole game.
“My guys really fought through a lot of adversity. I normally wouldn’t make excuses about this, but I’ve got a group of guys in that locker room that did everything they could and deserve a lot better than this.”
North Pulaski (25-5) sent the game into overtime on I.J. Ready’s leaner in the lane with 1.7 seconds left that tied it 48-48.
“North Pulaski is a great team,” Gross said. “We were very fortunate. We played almost the perfect game.”
The game was tight throughout. Wynne led 11-8 after a quarter and 22-17 at halftime.
“Our whole goal was to be within five points during the first four minutes, and to be within six points after the first quarter,” Gross said. “North Pulaski has the talent to run you out of the gym. Instead of going zone, we just manned them up. Our guys did a great job. That’s the principal of our program is man-to-man, halfcourt defense.”
North Pulaski took its first lead with a 10-0 run in the middle of the third quarter, but a three-pointer by Eric Davis tied it 33-33 with 26 seconds left in the period. Bryant put North Pulaski back up, 35-33, with the final basket of the period.
Wynne opened the last quarter with a 9-4 run to take a 42-39 lead with 4:20 left.
A basket and two free throws by Bryant put North Pulaski ahead 43-42 with 3:14 left in regulation. Weaver hit two free throws for Wynne, Colson hit two free throws for North Pulaski and Scott hit two more free throws for Wynne for a 46-45 lead with 1:48 left.
North Pulaski missed and Weaver hit two more free throws for a 48-45 lead with 39 seconds left. Bryant hit a lone free throw with 19 seconds left to pull North Pulaski within 48-46.
North Pulaski fouled immediately, but Wynne missed both free throws and left the door open for the tying basket.
Bryant led North Pulaski with 22 points, including 16 in the second half.
North Pulaski advanced to the semifinals with a runaway victory against Blytheville.
The Falcons never trailed, scoring the first five points of the game on a driving basket and three-pointer by Aaron Cooper.
North Pulaski raced to a 25-9 lead after the first quarter, and increased it to 30-9 in the second quarter on a three-pointer and a fast-break layup by Ware.
North Pulaski led 36-20 at halftime and coasted in the second half.
Ware scored 20 points to lead North Pulaski. Cooper added 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.