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Blackwell sparks 3rd quarter run in Fauquier’s boys basketball win over Liberty

Friday, Dec. 20 | By Jeff Malmgren
Fauqiuer's Elijah Barbour drives during a 49-34 win over Liberty on Friday. --Photo by Adam Goings
Midway through the third quarter Friday, Fauquier coach Wayne Brizzi stood up out of his chair along the sideline and began directing his players to spots on the floor, like an air traffic controller.

The Falcons had struggled all night to adjust when the Liberty Eagles switched from a man-to-man defense to a 1-3-1 zone defense, but Brizzi finally got the Falcons lined up correctly in that moment. Seconds later, Fauquier senior Jeremiah Blackwell caught a skip pass from Spicer Sabruno and made a 3-point field goal.

Fauquier took off after that. The Falcons built a lead as large as 17 points and eventually won, 49-34, at home in Warrenton.

"They did a nice job mixing defenses up," Brizzi said of the Eagles. "Sometimes that can throw you off. … We were a little more accustom to the" 1-3-1 in the second half.

Fauquier led only 20-17 at halftime and 24-19 with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter. But then Blackwell made that 3-pointer and added another with 3 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the third to give the Falcons a 30-21 lead.

"He hit some big shots," Eagles coach Pat Frazer said. "He works hard and deserves it. … That's great for him; bad for us."

Blackwell helped Fauquier claim its fourth consecutive win and improve to 4-1. Liberty, meanwhile, fell to 0-5.

"We're not a program that's used to not winning, so there's definitely frustration," Frazer said. "I saw it in the locker room. … There should be. If we went in the locker room and said, 'Hey, we got closer,' that's a loser mentality. We don't have that.

"These guys want to win," he said. "We aren't that far off. I really don't think so."

Liberty rallied to narrow its deficit to 45-34 with 2:22 remaining in the fourth quarter, but then had to start shooting 3-pointers. The Eagles finished the game 0-for-10 on 3s.

Fauquier went 4-for-14 on 3-pointers with Blackwell making three. He finished with a game-high 25 points.

"I wanted to stay in the same pace – get what's open," Blackwell said. "Those 3s [were] open, and Coach always says, 'Never stop shooting until I say something.'"

Brizzi kept quiet.

The Falcons also improved their defensive effort in the third quarter. They forced eight Liberty turnovers in the period and outscored the Eagles 12-4 to take a 32-21 lead into the fourth. In fact, Liberty attempted only two field goals during the first 6 minutes of the third quarter.

"They did a good job with their [defensive] pressure. We had a hard time with that," Frazer said. "There's a quarter where we score two or four points in every game. … If we knock that out, we'll win."

The Eagles have yet to score more than 40 points in a game this season, and their 34 points Friday tied a season-low.

"A defensive game," said Falcons senior Elijah Barbour, who had 14 points, three steals and three assists. "I think we did great."

Fauquier forced 22 turnovers in the game and committed only 17 (seven in the fourth quarter). Falcons sophomore Travis Croson had three steals and four rebounds to go with three assists and three points

"Travis did a heck of a job constantly putting ball pressure on, shutting off some passing lanes continuously," Brizzi said. "He sold out."

Meanwhile, Liberty's defense held Fauquier under 54 points for the first time this season. The Falcons, in fact, attempted only 35 field goals.

"Our defense is keeping us in the game," Frazer said. "Holding them to [under] 50 isn't bad. You've got to score more than 34 though."

Fauquier did make 16 field goals (46 percent) and had seven offensive rebounds. Lareco Robinson led the Falcons with eight total rebounds, while Jay Jay Roberts had four, as well as four points and two assists.

For Liberty, Titus Sizemore had 10 points, five rebounds and two assists, while Hakeem Johnson had eight points.

Blackwell didn't produce much in other statistical categories, but his 25 points made the difference.

"He does a great job of scoring [within the confines of] the offense," Brizzi said. "It makes a big difference because he shoots a shot and we know that's a shot, so everybody has better rebound positioning and all that stuff. … He's executing correctly."

Fauquier and Liberty could face off again Dec. 29 in the upcoming Winter Classic tournament, either in the championship game or consolation final of the four-team event.

"I've never won a Christmas tournament," Frazer said. "Nobody's going to expect anything out of us. Maybe we do it with these guys."

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