Tuesday, January 08, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons win on the road

Leader sports editor

North Pulaski opened conference play with a bang Friday night at Central High School in Helena-West Helena. The Falcons beat the Cougars 77-68 in a game that saw several strategy changes by the visiting team.

“I had gotten a couple of scouting reports from coaches who’ve seen them, but I didn’t really have much to go on,” North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson said. “I heard they played hard, were athletic and tried to beat you off the dribble a lot. I wasn’t ready for how long and physical they are. They were probably the second or third most physical team we’ve played. They had a big boy inside and it took a minute to adjust to them.”

The Falcons came out in a zone defense to try to keep the quick-footed Cougar guards from penetrating the lane. The plan backfired when Central hit a barrage of three pointers to build a nine-point lead.

North Pulaski fought back and evened the score at 37 by halftime after switching to a man defense and staying on the outside shooters.

The third quarter belonged to the Falcons. Halfway through the period, Jackson called for full-court pressure and the host team didn’t handle it well.

Freshman Rashawn Langston went on a point-scoring spree once the press was called. The 6-foot-3 guard hit a pair of three pointers off steals by Joe Aikens and Eric Mouton. He then got his own steal and layup, followed by a free throw after being fouled.

“He flourishes in that type of game,” Jackson said. “He gets a little lost in the shuffle when a team slows us down and we get into a half court game. But he’s a freshman. He’s learning how to move without the ball and just learning how to be a more complete player. But he’s as good as any freshman out there in this type of game.”

The Falcons were able to keep Central at bay through the first half of the fourth quarter. That forced the Cougars to start fouling, and North Pulaski hit their free throws to seal the win.

“We closed them out and that was important,” Jackson said. “For an inexperienced team to go on the road in its first conference game, that was very important for us.”

Langston led all scorers with 29 points. Three other Falcons ended the game in double figures. Mouton had a season-high 18. It was his second consecutive solid performance, according to Jackson.

“Eric has really been coming on these last few games,” Jackson said. “Even in the one we lost at Camden against Magnolia, he played well in that game.”

Junior Joe Aikens, who leads the team in scoring, added 14 points and found other ways to help the team.

“Joe’s been just our scorer but he had the most impressive stat line of the night,” Jackson said. Aikens added seven assists, five steals and three rebounds to his 14 points.

Aaron Williamson scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Falcons (7-5, 1-0).

The Lady Falcons didn’t fare as well, losing to the Lady Cougars 56-37. Things fell apart for the North Pulaski ladies in the first quarter as Central raced out to a quick double-digit lead. The Lady Falcons regrouped and got back within eight points in the third quarter, but another run by Central sealed the victory for the home team.

The Falcons hosted their first conference game last night against Pulaski Academy. Look for details of those games in Saturday’s edition of The Leader. They will also host cross-town rival Jacksonville on Friday.