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Fauquier building boys basketball lineup around returning starters Blackwell, Roberts

Saturday, Dec. 7 | By Jeff Malmgren
Jeremiah Blackwell scored 20 points in Fauquier's season opening loss to James Wood on Tuesday. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Fauquier assistant coach Dennis Tapscott sent a text message to his son, Dillon, on Tuesday night with the final score of the Falcons’ game against James Wood: a 73-58 loss.

Head coach Wayne Brizzi suggested an additional message.

“I said, 'Well, if we could have had your 16 points and six assists, we would have won easily,’” Brizzi said.

Last season, Dillon Tapscott led Fauquier in total points and assists before graduating. He’s one of three starters lost that the Falcons are working to replace in 2013-14.

Senior guard Jeremiah Blackwell (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) and senior forward Jay Jay Roberts (6-3, 185) are the Falcons’ two returning starters from a 2012-13 team that finished with a 12-12 record.

Led by Tapscott at point guard and Caleb Lantz at shooting guard Fauquier won a share of the Evergreen District championship last season with Liberty and Kettle Run. Like Tapscott, Lantz has since graduated after leaving the team prior to the end of last season. He led the Falcons in points per game, while Tapscott led in total scoring.

"It's a struggle not to have Dillon and Caleb, but we're working through it,” Blackwell said. “We're starting to get shooters and people that can handle the ball.”

Fauquier also lost Leif Heltzel, a junior starting forward last season who decided not to return this winter, Brizzi said.

Blackwell and Roberts returned after averaging 10.3 and 7.0 points per game for a team that lost in the quarterfinals of the Region II Division 4 tournament. The rest of Fauquier’s roster is relatively inexperienced, but the Falcons (0-1) remain optimistic.

"I expect a great season,” Blackwell said. “I hope there’s not somebody on the team that's like, 'We're not going to go anywhere.' We can go somewhere if we work hard.”

Behind Roberts and Blackwell, junior guard Spicer Sabruno (5-10, 185) and sophomore forward LaReco Robinson (6-3, 225) logged the most minutes last season among Fauquier’s returning players. Neither, however, entered the game Tuesday until less than five minutes remained in the fourth quarter.

Their roles should expand once they get more practice under their belts following a transition from football season.

For now, Fauquier’s starting lineup consists of Blackwell, Roberts, sophomore point guard Travis Croson (5-9, 150), senior guard Elijah Barbour (5-10, 155) and junior forward Seth Guillory (6-3, 180).

Most of the Falcons struggled to score against James Wood, making only 35 percent of their field goal attempts. So, Fauquier trailed by as much as 26 points in the fourth quarter.

"They thumped us," Brizzi said. "We didn't have the quality possessions.”

The Falcons went 0-for-12 on 3-point attempts in the first half and finished 5-for-22 only because junior guard Dana Rector (5-9, 170) went 3-for-3 in the final 92 seconds of the fourth quarter.

Blackwell led the Falcons with 20 points and Roberts had 18, but Rector, transfer from Orange, was the only other player to make more than one field goal.

"They couldn't buy a shot," Brizzi said. "We need some other people stepping up a little bit, and I think we'll have some guys."

“I liked our energy tonight,” he said. “We just need to get more fundamental.”

That includes boxing out for rebounds. Despite a flurry of rebounds in the final minutes, Fauquier finished with only 27 to James Wood's 37.

"We've got to find some people to rebound," Brizzi said. "Group effort."

Roberts led Fauquier with six rebounds Tuesday after also leading the team last season with 95. Robinson had 31 rebounds last season despite limited action.

“We're hoping he can help us inside,” Brizzi said. “And Ryan McCray, he's big. We'll see if he comes along.”

McCray, a 6-3, 240-pound junior forward, is still raw.

Rounding out Fauquier’s roster is junior guard Dominic Scott (5-10, 145), sophomore guard Tabrizi Ardeshir (5-7, 135) and freshman forward Grant Keithley (6-2, 160).

Rector showed the most promise off the bench Tuesday with quickness and strong handle. While he doesn't have a textbook shot, he made nearly every attempt.

"Tonight he was shooting the ball pretty well," Brizzi said. "Sometimes you get that positive reinforcement by having some success and it can definitely snowball. You start believing and continue to do it."

Rector scored all 13 of his points in the final 3 minutes, 12 seconds of the fourth quarter.

"Just wanted to take over the game,” he said.

Rector, LeReco, Croson, Sabruno or somebody else will likely have to emerge as a third scoring option if Fauquier wants to improve on its .500 record from last season.

For now, Roberts and Blackwell will have to carry the load.

“Pressure doesn't really get in my mind,” Roberts said.

Projected Starting Lineup
PG Travis Croson, So.
G Elijah Barbour, Sr.
G Jeremiah Blackwell, Sr.*
F Jay Jay Roberts, Sr.*
F LaReco Robinson, So.†

*returning starter
†Seth Guillory, Jr., began season as starter

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