Friday, January 26, 2007

SPORTS >>Lady Badgers, Falcons cruise to 5A-East wins

IN SHORT: The NP Falcons beat Beebe at home Tuesday for their third league victory.

Leader sports writer

Local 5A-East teams Beebe and North Pulaski squared off Tuesday night in Jacksonville, resulting in a 72-52 win for the Lady Badgers and a 62-35 rout for North Pulaski in the boys game.

Youth was king on Tuesday at the North Pulaski gym, as sophomore Ty O’Neil led the Lady Badgers to the win with a 22-point performance, and NP freshman Aaron Cooper had a near-flawless shooting percentage from the outside to lead the Falcons with 18 points during their easy win.

The younger of the Cooper brothers went four of six from three-point range in the contest, doing most of his outside damage in the opening minutes of both halves. Fellow freshman Da Quen Bryant also turned in a solid performance for North Pulaski with seven points and nine rebounds.

Bryant had trouble containing Beebe senior post Jordan Geirach, but held Beebe’s other big guy, Dante Miles, without a single point. Geirach finished with 16 points to lead Beebe, but any further offensive highlights for the Badgers were few and far between.

NP coach Raymond Cooper attributed the improved performance to his team sticking to their proper assignments, something he voiced displeasure over after the loss to Greene County Tech.

“The last time out, we had guys playing outside of their roles,” Cooper said. “You have guys that rebound, guys that shoot, and guys that pass, and we had to get that defined. I think we have that pretty much straightened out now.”
Cooper was much happier with the overall effort, but says he is still looking for more effort from the subs.

“When we put the bench in, those guys are going to have to come in and at least maintain,” Cooper said. “That’s one point we are going to have to look at before the next game, but overall, I thought our focus and intensity were much better, as well as our execution.”

Bryant used his unusually large frame for a ninth-grader to out-board both Geirach and Miles, often holding the Badgers to a single shot attempt during their possessions. Bryant’s control of the inside mixed with Aaron Cooper’s hot hand and older brother Quinn’s floor leadership proved too much for Beebe, as the Falcons had taken over with a 48-29 lead by the end of the third quarter.

“I didn’t envision having to use two freshmen this much at the start of the season,” Cooper said. “They have both done a good job of sharing and stepping up when we’ve needed them to. Part of it was out of necessity, but they have done well. They’re just like any freshmen, kind of up and down, but tonight they played with confidence, and hopefully that will continue.”

The only real threat from the Badgers came in the second quarter. North Pulaski gave most of the starters a rest, and Beebe took advantage with a 10-0 run in the final 4:49 of the first half. Beebe sophomore Zack Kersey scored all of his total seven points in the final two minutes of the period, along with an inside basket and free throw from Geirach. The strong run late in the first half allowed Beebe to pull within six at the intermission, 31-25, but when the NP starters returned to start the second half, the rout was on once again.

Other double-digit scorers in the game included Quinn Cooper with 13 points for North Pulaski, and Charlie Spakes with 10 for the Badgers. The win gives the Falcons records of 8-7 overall and 3-2 in the 5A-East, while Beebe fell to 3-12 and 0-5 on the season.

The girls game was controlled by the Lady Badgers from start to finish, with a steady lead-increase through the entire 32 minutes. Beebe shut down the entire NP squad in the final quarter with the exception of junior guard Neshia Ridgeway, who scored eight of her total 24 points in the last frame. Ridgeway also gave an impressive performance at the free-throw line with 11 of 14 attempts made.

Senior forward Tamara Rhodes also finished with double-digits for the Lady Falcons with 12 points. Along with O’Neil’s 22-point performance, Emily Bass added 16 points for the Lady Badgers.

Lady Badgers coach Lara Jackson had mixed feelings about her team’s performance on the night.

“Overall, I’m disappointed that our defense allowed 52 points,” Jackson said. “We’ve been holding our opponents to 35 and 40 points a game. Offensively, I felt like we did what we needed to do, we pushed the ball down the floor and made them play faster.”

It was the fourth straight league win for the Lady Badgers, moving their record to 8-7 overall and 4-1 in the 5A-East. The loss gives the Lady Falcons records of 2-15 and 0-5.

Beebe played Blytheville at home last night, and will host Batesville on Tuesday. North Pulaski traveled to Nettleton last night, and will also be on the road Tuesday against Wynne.