Tuesday, February 02, 2010

SPORTS >> North Pulaski gets no bounce in poll

Freshman I.J. Ready has been a contributor for North Pulaski this season.

Leader sports editor

At least North Pulaski didn’t drop in the statewide rankings.

But Falcons coach Raymond Cooper was scratching his head a little over North Pulaski’s stationary status after it beat No. 1 Little Rock McClellan last week.

“We started at four, beat them, stayed at four,” Cooper said.

The Falcons (14-4, 6-0 5A-Southeast) beat McClellan 76-73 on Jan. 26 then had last Friday’s game with White Hall postponed until the end of the season because of the winter weather that blew into Arkansas late last week.

It is hard to say if the cancellation and the missed chance to win another game may have kept the Falcons from moving up the overall rankings, in which Conway, of the 7A, is No. 1 followed by 6A members West Memphis and Little Rock Hall. McClellan dropped to No. 5.

North Pulaski is No. 1 in 5A, but Cooper clearly expected the Falcons to move a little, if not all the way to No. 1, in the overall rankings.

“We’ve never done well in the polls,” Cooper said. “I don’t know if people underestimate us because of our size or whatever the case may be, but it’s a little stuff to put on the bulletin board.”

Cooper and the Falcons, who reached the 5A state final and lost to Greene Co. Tech last year, didn’t get a chance to discuss the snub over the icy weekend, but Cooper figured it would be a hot topic going into Monday’s practice.

“Of course I haven’t seen them since then. I’ll find a good time to use it,” Cooper said.

The good news at least, is that North Pulaski went into its unexpected time off after a victory.

“I’d rather be coming off a win than coming off a loss,” Cooper said. “You get a whole lot of time to mull it over and then not being able to practice either, so I’d much rather be coming off a win.”

Kyron Ware led North Pulaski with 18 points in the McClellan victory and freshman I.J. Ready made two free throws with three seconds left for the final margin.

Cooper said the Falcons’ effort was good to see after some lackluster performances early in the season.

“We picked it up in the last couple weeks and the biggest thing is practice picked up, and preparing,” Cooper said. “Preparing for the games and sustaining. We still had a letdown against McClellan, we got up 18 in the third quarter and we went into that little mode again.”

Cooper said his players still sometimes stand around when it’s time to grab a rebound, and he hasn’t always been happy with the speed of the Falcons’ transition game and a lack of communication in transition.

“These are things that are mental because we drill it all the time and sometimes we lost focus,” Cooper said.

But the Falcons wouldn’t be perfect in the conference and in the state’s top five without having some highlights too. For Cooper, such a highlight has been balanced scoring.

“In the McClellan game and the Beebe game both we had equal distribution of scoring,” Cooper said. “At Beebe we had five guys with double digits and one guy with eight points. Against McClellan we had four and I think one guy had eight so we had almost five guys in double digits against McClellan.

“That’s when we’re at our best, everybody contributing and you can’t really key in on anybody.”

Ware is averaging close to 18 points to lead the Falcons, Aaron Cooper is averaging close to 17 and Bryan Coulson’s average is around 10.

While North Pulaski would have liked to continue its groove after beating McClellan, the snow day last Friday actually came at a pretty good time.

“It was kind of good for us because we have some guys that have some nagging injuries,” Ray Cooper said. “It allows them to heal up a little bit.”

Bryant has been playing though a back injury, Colson has a nagging groin pull and Ready has been dealing with a sore ankle.

“They’ve been playing but we just haven’t had a lot of time to get them well,” Ray Cooper said. “So this was a chance to get off it and take a few days and get some of those injuries better.”