Saturday, December 14, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> North Pulaski upends Trojans

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski boys won their third-straight game on Wednesday, beating the Hot Springs Trojans 63-50 at the Conway Invitational and improving to 4-1 this season. The game went back-and-forth throughout the first half, which ended with the Falcons leading 31-27.

North Pulaski then scored six points in the first minute of the third to take a 10-point lead, and never relinquished control from that point.

“I think we did pretty well,” said North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson. “The first half I thought we came out a little sluggish. But once we got going I thought we picked it up. They never did take off from school and kept practicing and playing games. They were able to prepare for us and we weren’t able to do that. I was real pleased with my kids. On the defensive end I was pleased with the effort the whole game. Offensively, I thought we were off with our timing from the layoff, so it took a minute to adjust.”

Both teams struggled to score in the first quarter. North Pulaski made just two shots from the floor, but hit six of eight free throws and took a 10-7 lead into the second frame. Things picked up from there as the Falcons began focusing on its interior game. Fred Thomas scored eight points in the paint in the second quarter and Steven Farrior added four more. That opened up the outside, where the Falcons hit their only two three pointers of the night. They were 2 of 15 from beyond the three-point line in the game, and the two that went in required a little luck.

“I think we banked in both the ones we made,” Jackson said. “I think some of that has to do with playing in an open arena for the first time this year. That backdrop is nothing like playing in a regular gym. I think we’ll probably do better than 2 for 15 the rest of the tournament.”

Rebounding was the only area in which Hot Springs won the battle, outrebounding the Falcons 40-28, but Jackson felt better about the second half effort on the boards.

“I thought we did a lot better job of it in the second half,” Jackson said. “They’re just as athletic as we are and a little bigger, so we’re not going to just jump higher than them. We came out in the second half with a better focus on boxing out.”

The numbers bear out Jackson’s observation. Hot Springs held a 23-13 advantage on the boards at halftime, but only a 17-15 advantage in the second half.

North Pulaski’s defensive pressure forced 23 Trojan turnovers, 12 of which were steals by seven different Falcons. DeMarik Brown came off the bench to lead the team with three takeaways. North Pulaski only turned it over 11 times.

Sophomore RaShawn Langston led the Falcons with 16 points while Thomas added 14 and a team-high six rebounds. Jackson was impressed by Thomas’ presence inside, being that he is only 5-foot-9.

“He’s really an athletic kid and he’s just got a motor,” Jackson said. “Rebounding is a mindset. It’s an attitude. He’s buying into what we’re trying to do. He’s hungry, and hopefully he’ll keeping coming with it the rest of the season.”

Joe Aikens scored 10 points and had five assists and four rebounds.

Trey Lenox led Hot Springs with 11 points.

North Pulaski lost 58-50 to tournament host Conway on Friday night and will face Harrison at 5:30 p.m. today in the third-place game. The Goblins lost to Fayetteville in the other semifinal.