Monday, February 24, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> NP boys relishing their role as spoiler

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski Falcons won their second-consecutive game on Tuesday. North Pulaski went on the road and beat Little Rock Christian Academy 58-43 and put themselves back into the race for the fourth playoff spot in the 5A-Central Conference. The win followed a 46-43 win over Mills last Friday on Senior Night. Falcon coach Roy Jackson admits it’s a long shot for his team to make it, but he’s very pleased with the progress the team has shown the last few games.

“We’re two games behind Christian and only three left to play, and we’re still a game behind Mills, so we’re probably going to need some help even if we win out.”

Winning out is a tall task too. The Falcons’ three remaining games are against the top three teams in the conference, Jacksonville and McClellan at home, and Pulaski Academy on the road in a makeup game on Feb. 27.

Regardless of the team’s chances to make the playoffs, Jackson takes some consolation in the fact that his team has pulled together and improved when it could have folded when the season went south.

“That really means a lot to me,” Jackson said. “These kids kept playing really hard. They never stopped playing hard. We’ve had to deal with a DI player, our team leader, waiting for him to come back, and then find out he’s out for the year. We’ve had other little injuries and crucial times. But they never stopped playing hard.”

The Falcons’ two-game streak started last Friday against the Comets. Former North Pulaski coach Raymond Cooper brought his team into the game still playing for a spot in the playoffs, but the Falcons were better from the start. North Pulaski jumped out to a 21-12 lead in the first quarter. Mills made a run and got to within three several times, but the Falcons never relinquished the lead.

The Falcon guards Arren Scruggs and RaShawn Langston were hot from outside, and the Falcons got solid play inside from reserve Andrew Wilson.

“Andrew came off the bench and gave us some big minutes,” Jackson said. “He gave us some key defensive rebounds and was just a presence inside. Then he scored four big points for us after we had hit a little dry spell. That’s what I mean by people stepping up.”

In Tuesday’s game, North Pulaski made its run in the second quarter, turning a 9-7 first-quarter deficit into a 23-15 lead at halftime. The Falcons extended their lead against the hosting Warriors in the third quarter, and continued to extend it in the fourth.

The Falcons had blown a fourth-quarter, double-digit lead at home against Little Rock Christian earlier in the season.

“The difference was my second unit went in and played almost the whole third quarter, and didn’t lose any ground,” Jackson said. “When we put the starters back out there in the fourth, they were fresher and were able to pull away.”

Scruggs led the Falcons with 15 points while Langston added 12. Steven Farrior scored 11 and Fred Thomas had eight at LRCA.

Jackson credits the win at home against Mills for the solid play that earned the Falcons their first conference road victory.

“With it being Senior Night and their old coach coming in here, they really wanted to do something special,” Jackson said. “Winning that game really gave them the confidence and made them believe they could go out there and beat some really good teams. Mills and Christian are the two main teams battling for that fourth spot, and we beat them both in back-to-back games. So we’re just going to try to keep playing spoiler and see how that works out for us.”