Friday, February 12, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Bears defeat NP with big second half

Leader sports editor

North Pulaski’s last basket of the first half Tuesday came at the end of one of the most impressive possessions for the Falcons’ season. It all went downhill from there as Sylvan Hills overcame a late first-half deficit to dominate the second half and win 60-39 in Jacksonville.

The win kept the Bears (14-8, 5-5) in a tie for fifth place and just one game behind Jacksonville in the race for the fourth and final playoff spot from the 5A-Central Conference.

“I think effort was the difference in the two halves for us,” said Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis. “I think it was clear they were playing with so much more effort than we were in the first half. You could really see Cordy (Winston) spending a lot more energy out there in the second half, and Jordan Washington, too. A lot of times you don’t notice him as much because he’s not out there on the floor as much, but his effort inside helped us a lot in the second half. He pulled down some pretty big offensive rebounds and gave us second chances.”

The Falcons (3-16, 0-10)got lost defensively in the last few seconds of each of the first two quarters. North Pulaski took its first lead on a steal and a pair of free throws by junior guard Justin Glasco that made the score 10-8 with three minutes left in the first quarter. Glasco’s steal was Sylvan Hills’ fifth turnover in just five minutes of play. The game alternated between a two-point Falcon lead and tied for the rest of the quarter, until only three seconds remained.

That’s when junior Leon Brooks got a steal for the Falcons (Sylvan Hills’ seventh turnover) and dished to sophomore post player Christian White for a layup. But the Falcons got caught celebrating too quickly. Washington threw the inbound pass the length of the court through a mostly unaware Falcon defense to a streaking Winston, who caught the ball running towards the basket. His layup was no good, but he was fouled by Jermaine Lopez, who tried to recover defensively. Winston hit both free throws with no time on the clock to end the first quarter with NP leading 17-15.

Lopez opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer that pushed the Falcon lead to five, but J.D. Smith answered just 15 seconds later for Sylvan Hills. Lopez hit another three, but this time Daylon Raynor answered for the Bears to make the score 23-21.

North Pulaski took possession with 2:30 left in the quarter leading 27-24, and ran its half-court offense for more than a minute and a half before finding White open inside for a layup and a five-point lead with 50 seconds remaining. It matched the Falcons’ biggest lead of the game and it was the beginning of a scoring drought that lasted practically the rest of the game.

The Bears ran it down to 13 seconds before Washington was fouled. He made both free throws to make it 29-26. NP’s Braxton McKinney then threw the inbound pass the length of the court to Glasco, who wasn’t open for a shot. He caught the ball initially, but lost the handle after putting it on the floor.

Smith picked it up for the Bears underneath the NP basket. He lost his footing while trying to dribble out of a double team and lost control. Raynor dived for the ball, flung it backwards over his head to Washington near the top of the key. He took two dribbles to the right corner of the midcourt stripe and launched a 50-footer that banked in at the buzzer to tie the game at halftime.

The Bears switched to a trapping defense in the second half and took the Falcons out of their game. North Pulaski’s defense recovered after an initial Bears’ run. Sylvan Hills led 39-34 halfway through the third quarter, but neither team scored again until the final 10 seconds when the Bears made it 41-34 on a bucket by sophomore post Alex Curry.

Sylvan Hills outscored NP 19-5 in the fourth quarter to set the final margin.

North Pulaski outrebounded Sylvan Hills 30-26, but shot only 28 percent from the floor, hitting 14 of 50 shot attempts.

“That’s where we struggle, scoring the basketball,” said North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson. “We just don’t have any pure shooters, or pure scorers. But they play hard, man. That’s what you want to see as a coach. They go out there and play hard despite our disadvantages. I’m proud of them.”

Sylvan Hills made 22 of 51 attempts, including 6 of 15 from 3-point range. The Falcons were 9 of 15 from the foul line while the Bears were 10 of 17.

Winston and Washington each scored 13 points to lead all scorers. Smith added 11 for the Bears. White recorded a double-double for NP with 12 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Lopez scored 11 for the Falcons.