Friday, December 23, 2011

SPORTS >> Rockets edge Falcons in OT

Leader sports editor

North Pulaski (1-8) still hasn’t found the formula for its second win of the season since beating Joe T. Robinson in the opener, but it did come awfully close in the final round of the Red Devil Classic on Wednesday. The Falcons took Little Rock Catholic to the wire, falling 39-37 in overtime at Jacksonville High School.

“It’s a bad taste because you know you had it,” North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson said. “At the same time, it’s a sign that the hard work we’re putting in is paying off, and we’re getting better. They’re starting to understand what kind of team we’re going to have to be and what can happen when we stick with a game plan.”

The Falcons took the biggest lead of the game by either team when a Marvin Davis free throw made it 30-25 with 2:34 left in regulation.

Catholic’s Zach Reiners’ offensive rebound and putback made it 30-27 just 10 seconds later. The two teams swapped a free throw each before Catholic tied the game with a three-point play off a steal with 1:26 on the clock. They would be the last points of the quarter.

Catholic got the ball with 31 seconds left and played for the last shot, but guard Mitchell Luther threw the ball out of bounds with 19 seconds left when his teammate made an unexpected cut towards the baseline.

Luther almost made up for his error by stepping into the NP passing lanes, but lost the ball out of bounds on the steal attempt. North Pulaski reset with 11 seconds left, but guard Daniel Drone’s three-point attempt was the off the mark with six seconds left. Catholic got the rebound and rushed up court for a final shot, but Jamalin Nash stole the ball. His heave from midcourt was no good, sending the game into overtime tied at 31.

The Rockets scored the first five points of the extra period for their biggest lead of the game with 2:21 left. After a North Pulaski air ball, Catholic failed to extend the lead when Falcon junior guard Malik Saab made a huge play by getting a steal and layup with 1:33 on the clock. Jackson called timeout after the basket and set up full-court pressure. North Pulaski executed it perfectly, getting another steal and layup, this time by Davis, to make it 36-35 with 1:28 left.

The Falcons got another stop on Catholic’s next possession, and Saab was fouled driving to the basket at the other end. He missed both free throws with 59 seconds left and Catholic went up by four with a bucket and a free throw with 31 seconds remaining.

Davis got a jumper in the lane to make it a two-point game with 19 seconds left. The Falcons fouled Catholic point guard Carter Morris with 17 seconds left, and Morris obliged the strategy by missing both free throws. NP’s Mouton took a three point shot with time running out that was off the mark. Catholic’s Reiners was fouled after getting the rebound with 0.7 seconds remaining. He also missed both free throws, but NP could not get a shot off before the buzzer.

For the game, North Pulaski made just six of 14 free-throw attempts while Catholic was even worse, hitting just 13 of 29.

Despite the the loss, the Falcons’s effort was especially pleasing to Jackson after the terrible game his team suffered the day before in the tournament. In that game, Bryant beat North Pulaski by 40 points. Much of the disparity was because of Jackson’s decision to sit most of his starters for most of the second half.

The game was close until the last two minutes of the second quarter, when Bryant went on a 12-0 run to give the Hornets a 16-point lead at the break. The lead quickly grew into the mid 20s by halfway through the third, prompting Jackson’s decision to bench some players.

“I just had to make a point to some people that we’re going to execute our game plan or we’re not going to play,” Jackson said. “It was tough giving up that run right before halftime, but we needed to come in the second half and start executing again, and we didn’t do that. We just tried to catch up as fast as we could and it just got worse.

“I was really pleased, though, with how they came back the next day and executed. If we could’ve just hit some free throws we would’ve put them away. The kids could’ve just got way down after a game like Bryant, but they came back hustling and executing.

“We’re 0-0 now, just like everybody else. At this point, it doesn’t matter if you went 10-0 or 0-10, come January everybody is even and we have something to build from.”