Monday, November 19, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> NP ladies knock off J.A. Fair

Leader sports staff

The North Pulaski Lady Falcons got their second-consecutive win of the season, beating JA Fair 40-10 Monday night in Little Rock. The Lady Falcons were slow out of the gate, struggling to score out of the half-court sets. Once first-year coach Stacey Dalmut called for pressure, North Pulaski began to dominate the game.

“It took us a little bit to get warmed up,” Dalmut said. “Once we started doing what we do, which is apply a lot of pressure, we started playing pretty well.”

The North Pulaski ladies started the season with a 44-38 loss to Pulaski Robinson, but followed that with a 57-37 win at Des Arc. The second win on Monday already exceeds the Lady Falcons’ win total from a year ago. Three freshmen moved up to join the varsity squad this year, but the other returning players are vastly improved, according to the head coach.

“You would not believe the difference between this year’s team and last year’s,” Dalmut said. “The freshmen help, but all the girls have worked so hard. They worked through the summer and have just worked their tails off. It’s pretty good feeling to see that work pay off with a couple of wins here early.”

Kiarra Evans led North Pulaski on Monday with 14 points while Raigen Thomas added 11.

The North Pulaski girls play again on Tuesday at Malvern, and are off more than two weeks before resuming play with a home game against Lonoke on Dec. 14.

The North Pulaski boys are off to a good start as well, backing up a season-opening win against Pulaski Robinson with a 45-42 victory over J.A. Fair on Saturday at Fair High School.

This year’s early success for the Falcons under second-year coach Roy Jackson is a contrast to North Pulaski’s slow start last season. The non-conference victory over the War Eagles was significant for Jackson and the team for two reasons, playing away and facing a defensively-tough opponent.

“It was a defensive game,” Jackson said. “Fair is a grind-it-out kind of team, their coach likes to play to keep the game in the 40s, and that’s what ended up happening. It was a good test for us to play that style of ball. We may face something like that again later on in conference.

“The kids stepped up really from the second quarter on defensively. In the first half, we had some good looks, but the shots just weren’t falling for us.”

The Falcons started to increase the pressure in the second quarter with a full-court press, taking Fair out of its early comfort zone in which it outscored its visitors 16-10. North Pulaski’s increased defensive pressure helped its offense create more opportunities, and the Falcons came back to lead 23-22 at halftime.

“Our press bothered them a little,” Jackson said. “We got them to turn the ball over some, and that helped a lot for us to be able to come back.”

RaShawn Langston led the Falcons with 17 points while Joe Aikens added eight points, four assists and four rebounds. For Fair, Alante Plant led the way with 12 points.

“It gives us a lot of confidence,” Jackson said of back-to-back victories to start the year. “Winning the first one is important, but any time you can back that up and go out on the road and win, that’s big. The kids are feeling like they can play with anybody right now, so that confidence goes a long way, especially looking down the road.”

The margin stayed close the rest of the way, with North Pulaski leading 36-34 at the end of three to set the stage for a battle in the final eight minutes.

After a year of adjusting with the coaching change from Ray Cooper, now head coach at Mills University Studies, to Jackson, the Falcons appear early on to be back to their tradition of winning ways.

“It’s a much better start,” Jackson said. “I’m really not comparing teams, because last year was a different situation. We’ve had the opportunity to have a good, full year with spring and summer, it’s made a big difference. Last year, I got the job at the end of the year and everything, so we didn’t have that chance. They know what I expect and I know a lot more about them. They’ve got their feet wet, and they’re out there with a lot more intensity this time.”