Tuesday, December 31, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons in CFHS finals

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski boys got two big wins in the Camden Christmas Invitational to advance to the championship round. On Friday, the Falcons beat Magnolia 59-49, then handled class 6A El Dorado 70-60 and played against tournament host Camden Fairview on Monday after Leader deadlines.

North Pulaski found itself behind after the first quarter of both games, but found ways to turn the tide in the second half to pull out a pair of tournament victories.

“With this situation, we’re just feeling them out early because you really don’t have any tape on these teams down here,” said North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson. “So early on you’re just feeling them out to see how it goes, then we go into halftime and make adjustments.”

In the tournament opener, North Pulaski needed adjustments a little sooner than halftime. Magnolia features a pair of 6-foot-6 post players, the Panther high-low game was more than the smallish Falcons could handle. Magnolia held an 18-5lead at the end of the first quarter, and extended the lead to as much as 16 early in the second period.

“They have some big ole boys and they were wearing us out in the first half,” Jackson said. “We didn’t have any answer for it. We’re not that big and that high-low game was killing us.”

The officials called the tournament tightly, so Jackson was hesitant to press early, but he decided he had to change strategies to have a chance to win.

“About the middle of the second quarter, we started pressuring them full court,” Jackson said. “We didn’t really get many calls in the first half, but they started turning it over. In the second half I think they got a little tired and we were able to get up and down the court on them a little bit. We were able to score better in transition and we were able to turn the game around. Once we got it into an up-and-down game, they had trouble keeping up with us.”

After the abysmal first quarter, North Pulaski scored 18 points in each of the last three periods. The Falcons were still trailing 32-23 at halftime, but outscored Magnolia 36-17 in the second half. Arren Scruggs and Steven Farrior scored 13 points each to lead the Falcons, while RaShawn Langston added 11.

North Pulaski, 7-3, and El Dorado were tied at 30 at halftime of Saturday’s semifinal game, and both teams scored 19 in the fourth quarter. The difference of the game was a brief but effective run midway through the third that put the Falcons up 51-41 heading into the final quarter.

While Jackson didn’t have tape on the Wildcats, he did get a scouting report that said the Eldo offense goes through Jaylen Cunningham.

“I just rotated a bunch of people on him,” Jackson said. “We have pretty good depth and I just wanted to keep a fresh body on him, and I think that wore him down a little bit. He got a little tired and wasn’t as active with the ball later on in the third quarter and into the fourth.”

Cunningham scored 14 points, almost half the team total, in the first half, but finished with 22.

Langston led the Falcons with 13 points against the Wildcats, while De’Marik Brown and Fred Thomas each scored 11.

Look for details of North Pulaski’s matchup with the Cardinals in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.