Tuesday, January 31, 2012

SPORTS >> Falcons’ playoff chances still alive

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski Falcons came off their most disappointing loss of the year with a big win over White Hall on Friday. After losing a late lead and dropping a crucial home game to Helena-West Helena Central on Tuesday, the Falcons did what they needed to do to keep playoff hopes alive, they went on the road for a conference win. North Pulaski (3-16, 2-5) beat White Hall (5-11, 1-6) 73-61 with intense pressure defense.

“It showed a lot about my kids to come off a loss like that emotionally,” North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson said. “They went right back to work the next day after the loss. We had two really tough practices and they came back with some intensity and worked hard. Due to that hard work, we came out with a victory.”

The hosting Bulldogs handled the pressure early. White Hall held an 18-15 lead at the end of the first quarter, but the pace favored the Falcons. With more quickness and depth, North Pulaski’s constant defensive pressure began to wear on the Bulldogs in the second quarter. The Falcons had forced several turnovers and started getting transition baskets. By halftime they had taken a 34-26 lead.

“They’ve got a really good point guard who can handle the ball,” Jackson said. “I just think in the second and fourth quarters, we started getting in his legs. That’s why we were able to make runs. They handled the pressure pretty good in the first and third quarters when they were rested, but we made our runs in the second and fourth quarters, mostly with some easy buckets in transition.”

White Hall didn’t go down without a final stand. The Bulldogs made a run that started late in the third and moved into the fourth quarter. North Pulaski’s lead had stretched to 14, but was back to eight by the end of the third at 46-38.

Another bucket cut it to six points, but that’s where it stopped. After another miss, center Jeremiah Hollis got a big offensive rebound and putback that sparked a Falcon run. After Hollis’ basket, Senior guard Brandon Simpkins got a steal and a layup. Daniel Drone followed with another steal and layup and in less than a minute, North Pulaski’s lead was back to 12 points.

“Jeremiah’s bucket was big,” Jackson said. “They were making a run and had all the momentum. Being at home, we knew they were going to make a run, but it was going on a little too long. That putback was big for us because it kind of sparked us and we were able to take back control. Finally making that basket, we were able to set up our press again and got a couple of steals.”

Jackson also gave his bench much of the credit for the win.

“My bench played most of the third quarter, and that’s really what allowed us to come in fresh and make that run in the fourth,” Jackson said. “Courvasiea Allen came in and played real well. Carlos Fuller made some big plays for us. Really I just have to give it up to my whole bench because when we made those runs, it’s because of what they did.”

Jamalin Nash led North Pulaski with 16 points. Simpkins added 13 and Allen scored 10.

The Falcons caught a tough break over the weekend when White Hall forfeited two of its three conference wins due to using an ineligible player. White Hall had beaten Helena-West Helena Central and Crossett. But the forfeit puts each of those teams a game ahead of the Falcons in the 5A Southeast standings. North Pulaski is still very much alive in the playoff race. Only one game separates third place from seventh place. Sylvan Hills and Mills lead the league at 7-0 and 6-1. HWHC, Crossett, Watson Chapel and Monticello are all 3-4. North Pulaski is 2-5 and White Hall, whose win over Monticello on Tuesday still stands, is 1-6.

The Lady Falcons fell in their game 51-13.

The Falcons traveled to Watson Chapel on Tuesday and will host Mills on Friday.