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Falcons edge King George, 68-66, in boys hoops

Sunday, Dec. 9 | By Peter Brewington
-- Photo by Adam Goings
It’s never too early in the season for a thrilling win, or a character-building one.

The Fauquier High boys basketball team edged visiting King George, 68-66, Saturday night in Warrenton with a strong fourth quarter surge and key contributions from senior post player Carl Hellandsjo.

Each team experienced wild swings of momentum. In the end, the Falcons made enough good plays to hold on, and enjoyed a little luck.

Nursing a 67-66 lead with 12 seconds left, Fauquier’s Jeremiah Blackwell missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw, but teammate J.J. Roberts tracked down the rebound and was fouled with nine seconds to go.

Roberts made the first free throw for a 68-66 lead, than missed the second. The ball fortuitously bounced to the left side, where Falcon Leif Heltzel ran it down, threw it outside to a teammate, allowing the Falcons to run out the clock before the Foxes could foul.

“We just hung in there and persevered. Give all the credit to the kids,” said Fauquier coach Wayne Brizzi.

This is considered a wide-open year in the Evergreen District, and the game showed Fauquier has the firepower and depth to contend. One night after a 56-41 home loss to Monticello, the win improved the Falcons to 2-2.

Dillon Tapscott led Fauquier with 17 points, followed by Caleb Lantz with 13, Jeremiah Blackwell with 10, Hellandsjo with nine, and J.J. Roberts and Leif Heltzel with six each.

The Falcons showed determination in fighting back from two prominent deficits.

King George (2-1) is a quick team that threw an army of harassing defenders at the Falcons, putting a lot of pressure on point guard Tapscott and fellow ballhandler Blackwell. Fauquier committed seven turnovers in the first quarter and six in the second. They fell behind 11-3 in the first quarter, 50-38 in the third and trailed 50-44 to start the fourth, but always managed to recover.

The Falcons buried six 3-pointers -- including a long high-arching one by Tapscott at the buzzer to close the third quarter -- and also got a clutch jumper from Blackwell, whose 12-footer in the lane gave Fauquier the lead for good at 58-56 with 2:20 to go.

Still, the Falcons probably could not have prevailed without the passion and energy of Hellandsjo, who scored seven of his nine points in the fourth by battling relentlessly under the basket.

“I just tried to play hard and play my role,” said Hellandsjo.

Hellandsjo is a 6-foot-3 senior who started two games last year, he said. You can tell he wants to start again. Brizzi is on board with that. “He comes off the bench but he’s really a starter. He played almost the whole second half,” the coach said.

Hellandjo’s rebounding, grit and toughness came at exactly the right time. With Fauquier nursing a 60-57 lead, Hellandsjo contributed his most impressive basket when he sliced through the KG defense from the foul line for a layup, giving the Falcons a 62-57 lead with 1:08 left.

“They kind of played off me, they did not expect me to drive,” said Hellandsjo.

But Hellandsjo fouled out with 1:03 left, leaving the Falcons to get to the finish line without their big man.

Heltzel contributed a clutch layup, Tapscott had a free throw, and Lantz two free throws with 35 seconds for a 67-63 lead.

King George kept responding as Anthony Howard’s 3-pointer with 20 seconds left cut Fauquier’s lead to 67-66.

However, King George never got the ball back thanks to those two loose ball rebounds by Roberts and Heltzel off missed free throws.

King George coach Josh Luzier said he wishes his team had played a little more wisely with their 12-point second half lead. “We’re young, and we needed to react better in certain scenarios. With a lead like that we did not need to push it so hard,” Luzier said.

On the inability of his team to rebound those two missed free throws, Luzier said, “The first one was lack of hustle, the second it was just a bad bounce, there’s not much to do about it,” he said.

As the buzzer sounded, the elated Falcons chest bumped in jubilation.

“It’s nice to see the kids step up. They showed pride and grit,” Brizzi said.

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