Tuesday, December 07, 2010

SPORTS >> Hurricane gets edge on Falcons at Conway

Leader sports editor

CONWAY – Jonesboro had an open invitation to the free-throw line as it beat North Pulaski 66-47 in the second round of the Wampus Cat Invitational at Buzz Bolding Arena on Monday.

The Hurricane (5-1) outlasted the Falcons in a game that featured 51 fouls while senior post player Ojo Ayo led with 22 points and 17 rebounds.

The Falcons struggled to handle pressure from Jonesboro’s full-court defense and to overcome 29 fouls. Jonesboro was able to reach the double bonus with 6:22 left in the first half and again early in the fourth quarter.

“He lost a lot of guards — a lot of experience from last year,” second-year Jonesboro coach Wes Swift said of coach Ray Cooper and North Pulaski, which reached the 5A state semifinals last season. “We thought our pressure might disrupt a little of what they were doing. We got beat Saturday in our own finals, and this is our fourth game in five days.

“On the one hand, I was concerned about our legs; on the other hand, I thought they were pretty motivated because they felt they gave one away Saturday night.”

Saturday’s loss to East Poinsett County became a distant memory for the Hurricane once they got the early jump on the Falcons.

Jacob Gibson’s buzzer-beating three pointer to end the first quarter gave Jonesboro a 16-13 lead, and it held the lead with three straight trips to the free-throw line before Ayo led Jonesboro on an 11-0 run that stretched the lead to 31-18 with 3:11 left in the half.

Senior guard Marcus Williams picked up his third foul with 7:03 left in the second quarter, and a foul by Shyheim Barron moments later sent Jonesboro’s Colby Inboden to the line for the first of seven trips by the Hurricane before the half.

Jonesboro capitalized by going 10 of 14.

Williams and Barron eventually fouled out in the fourth quarter.
The Hurricane had similar difficulties as it committed 22 fouls.

It was not Jonesboro’s 22 of 36 showing at the free-throw line that made all the difference, as the Falcons made 15 of 29 free throws. The Hurricane controlled the game by controlling the rebounding 43-16 over a greatly outsized North Pulaski team.

Most of that success was because of Ayo’s power-finesse presence inside. Ayo single-handedly out rebounded the Falcons by one.

“I thought Ayo set the tone,” Swift said. “We threw it to him early; I thought he got some baskets. I don’t know how many rebounds he had, but it was a lot.”

Junior guard Braylon Spicer was the Falcons’ only consistent scoring threat most of the night. Spicer helped keep things close early and scored five of North Pulaski’s final six points of the first half once the Hurricane crept out to a double-digit lead.

Spicer made two straight baskets inside the lane with less than two minutes left in the half, and hit the back end of a two-shot free-throw opportunity with 52 seconds left to make it 32-23.

But the Hurricane shut Spicer out in the third quarter, though he went on to lead the Falcons with 17 points.

After a successful run at Lonoke, Swift replaced longtime Hurricane coach Barry Pruitt last season and is beginning to see the program adapt to his style.

“Last year was kind of a culture shock for them going from one coach to a new one,” Swift said. “A coach that had been there for 25 years to a new, young, whatever you want to call me. It took them a little while to get used to what I expected, but things are moving the way I want them to.”

Sophomore Dayshwan Wat-kins added 11 points for the Falcons while senior post player Bryan Colson finished with eight.

North Pulaski will play Thursday at 5:30 against the loser between Fayetteville and Guy-Perkins.