When the Fauquier Falcons ran their motion offense Tuesday, it looked as crisp as it has at any point over the past few seasons.
They rarely ran that offense during the second half, though, which allowed the John Handley Judges to beat them, 74-62, at home in Warrenton.
Fauquier's offense produced endless back-cut layups and open jump shots in the first half, helping the Falcons take a lead as large as 10 points in the second quarter.
Handley (6-1), however, changed the tempo in the third quarter with a full court man-to-man defense. That flustered the Falcons (4-4) enough to limit the opportunities for them to run their half-court motion.
"They were just more intense than us. We came out kind of lackadaisical" in the second half, said Carl Hellandsjo, who led Fauquier with 17 points and six rebounds. "We started well, but we just didn't finish it right."
Handley coach Tom Dixon said the brief full-court look was the only on-court adjustment the Judges made at halftime.
"We just challenged them to play harder," he said. "We did not play hard at the beginning of the game."
Fauquier scored to start the third quarter and took a 41-31 lead, but the Judges then went on a 19-3 run to take a 50-44 lead. They forced seven Fauquier turnover in the third quarter and often beat the Falcons down court, even after made field goals, to score easy layups.
Handley's 6-foot-7 center, Cameron Jackson, had two fast break dunks in a stretch of less than four minutes during the third.
"The big guy sprinted the floor pretty well and got some easy buckets on us," Fauquier coach Wayne Brizzi said.
He also helped the Judges out-rebound Fauquier, 36-29. In fact, the Judges had 15 offensive rebounds, which helped keep them within striking distance of Fauquier during the first half.
Jackson finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, five steals and three assists, while Darion Robinson had 15 rebounds, 14 points and two steals.
"Our size hurts us, but we should still be able to battle," said Hellandsjo, Fauquier's tallest player at 6-3. "We just need to be more aggressive."
Handley's aggression after halftime often foiled the Falcons' own full-court man-to-man press. After made baskets, the Judges in-bounded the ball so quickly that Fauquier couldn't keep the Judges' guards from creating fast break opportunities.
"They were really athletic, so it was just really hard to keep up," Hellandsjo said.
Handley point guard Tre Brown led that charge after he sat out some of the second quarter thanks to the two fouls he picked up during the first period. Brown also fueled the Judges' increased defensive intensity.
"When he's putting pressure on the ball, everybody else seems to pick it up," Dixon said.
Even when the Falcons managed to set up in their half-court offense, the heightened tempo seemed to affect their shot selection.
"Some guys just started jacking up shots," Hellandsjo said.
"Instead of working the ball around like we were in the first half," said point guard Dillon Tapscott, who finished with 15 points, seven assists, three rebounds and two steals. "It just piled up on us. The more we missed, the more we thought we had to take quicker shots. We didn't get into our offensive flow in the second half."
Handley took a 57-49 lead on a Jake Rudolph 3-pointer that opened the fourth quarter, and the Judges built a lead as large as 74-59. Rudolph, in fact, made three 3-pointers during a six-minutes stretch between the third and fourth quarters.
He "heated up in the second half, and it made a big difference," Brizzi said.
Rudolph finished with 15 points, while Jason Morgan had 12.
For Fauquier, Lief Heltzel had nine points and three rebounds, while Caleb Lantz had seven points and four assists.
In the third quarter, the Falcons shot only 29 percent (4 of 14), thanks to their poor selection, after shooting 57 percent in the first half (13-for-23).
"We kind of got a little too individual," Tapscott said.
The Falcons played the exact opposite in the first and second quarters. Nine of their 13 field goals in the first half came off an assist.
"They were killing us," Dixon said. "We lost sight of the ball many times" on cuts to the basket.
The Falcons will win a lot of games this season if they can execute with such precision over two halves.
"We've got to let the offense come to us," Hellandsjo said. "That's when we're at our best."
"Our offense was really good," Tapscott said. "All the backdoor cuts and all the open shots."
Despite losing to the Judges, Fauquier played much better than when the teams met Dec. 3 in Winchester. John Handley dominated that game from the jump and won, 65-49. On Tuesday, the Falcons, at least, held a 10-point lead in the early moments of the third quarter.
"They're just doing a great job with executing and being unselfish," Brizzi said. "They work. I'm not saying [Fauquier players during] other years didn't work, but they look like they get on the practice floor and they love it" this season.
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