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Liberty boys win despite Fauquier’s phenomenal 3-point shooting

Monday, Feb. 8 | By Jeff Malmgren
Bailey Kestner scored a game-high 18 points Monday during Liberty's 67-64 win over Fauquier. --Fauquier Times Staff File Photo/Randy Litzinger
The Liberty Eagles could not stop Fauquier from making 3-pointers Monday.

They did keep one 3-point shot from counting on the scoreboard, though, and that was just enough to beat the Falcons, 67-64, at home in Bealeton during Liberty's senior night.

With the Eagles clinging to a slim lead during the final 30 seconds of the fourth quarter, David Milton plowed over Fauquier's Ardeshir Tabrizi, who was setting a screen so teammate Grant Keithley could shoot an open 3-pointer in the corner. Keithley made that shot, but he did so a split-second after a referee's whistle sounded to signal a foul on Milton.

So Keithley's 3-pointer didn't count, and the Eagles held on to win by a three-point margin.

“It's just like, 'Are you kidding me?'" Keithley said of the negated 3-pointer. “It's just disappointing.”

But it's also a peculiar play that perfectly fit within a wild game that featured an incredible 12 3-point field goals made by Fauquier, four double-digit scorers for Liberty, the most vociferous Eagles crowd in recent memory and an opportunity for the Falcons to win despite no time remaining in regulation.

As the final buzzer sounded, Milton committed another foul, but this time he hit Travis Croson as the Fauquier senior released a 3-pointer. So with the Falcons trailing by three points and no time remaining on the clock, Croson had the chance to force overtime by making three free throws.

Croson, however, missed the initial free-throw attempt, which voided the need for two more and ended the game.

“Our crowd was good tonight,” Eagles coach Pat Frazer said. “We thought that [noise] was big when Travis went to the line.

“It's tough to be out there like that at the end of the game,” he said. “But Travis, I thought, had a heck of a game.”

Croson matched Keithley with a team-high 14 points for Fauquier, and he made a pair of 3-pointers. His shooting helped the Falcons make 52 percent of their 3-pointers (12-for-23).

Even more impressive, Fauquier made 12 of its first 19 3-point attempts (63 percent).

“Wow, that's the best we've shot all year,” Fauquier coach Wayne Brizzi said. “I thought we did a great job of [getting] those good looks when we were not being contested.”

The Falcons' 3-pointers undeniably kept them in the game. They made three 3s during the first quarter to end the period in a 12-12 tie. Then they made three 3s in the second quarter to trail only 30-27 at halftime despite a deficit as large as 25-16.

Fauquier added four 3s in the third quarter en route to taking a brief lead before Liberty ended the period with a 51-50 advantage.

“When we messed up and left them open, they just hit – it seemed like – every one,” Frazer said of the 3-pointers.

Keithley finished with three 3-pointers while P.J. Boyle made four en route to 12 points, and Peter Myers added eight points with a pair of 3s.

“I was impressed,” Frazer said. “I don't care if anyone says, 'Oh, they've only won [three games].' Not too many high school teams hit 12 3s.”

Alas, the Falcons remain stuck on three wins after losing Monday, and they were eliminated from contention for a playoff berth. With a 0-6 record in Conference 22 play, Fauquier sits fifth in the league standings and will not make the four-team conference tournament field. Overall, the Falcons have a 3-13 record.

“With just three wins, you'd think we'd feel sorry for ourselves,” Brizzi said. “I don't see that [in the locker room]. … Every time they come on the floor, they're there to win.”

Fauquier has at least two games remaining on its regular season schedule (pending possible games rescheduled after postponements due to weather).

“We just never stop working no matter what the score or record is,” Keithley said. “We don't care. We're going to lay it all out.”

Liberty, meanwhile, broke a three-game losing streak by beating the Falcons on Monday and improved its record to 8-11.

“We needed that one,” Frazer said. “Last week was rough.”

The Eagles also improved to 18-17 against Fauquier over the past 12 seasons, a benchmark because Frazer began coaching the Eagles during the 2004-05 season while Brizzi is in his 22nd season with the Falcons.

More importantly, Liberty improved to 4-3 in conference play this season and can clinch the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament if it defeats Kettle Run on Friday.

“We aren't really worried about scenarios,” Frazer said. “We just needed to play hard tonight, so I was proud of them.”

On senior night, juniors Bailey Kestner and C.J. Jones played particularly well for Liberty. Kestner finished with 18 points and four rebounds while Jones had 13 points, three assists and two steals.

Kestner, in fact, scored eight points during the pivotal fourth quarter, including a field goal with 1 minute, 20 seconds remaining that tied the score, 63-63. Jones assisted that basket and then fed Milton for a back-cut layup to give Liberty the lead for good, 65-63.

“He did a great job,” Frazer said of Jones. “His vision's getting better … and he made some big shots for us.

“He thinks he struggled a little bit last week, so [this is] him bouncing back,” Frazer said.

Kestner also played poorly at times during Liberty's three-game losing streak, but he responded Monday with one of his best games this season.

“He played real well tonight,” Frazer said. “I'm so proud of him.”

Milton added 15 points and nine rebounds while Hakeem Johnson had 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals.

For Fauquier, Dakari Mullins had a game-high four assists while Croson and Keithley each had three assists.

“We were down-and-out a couple times and those guys just clawed back in it,” Brizzi said of his Falcons. “Anytime you play hard and lay it on the line, that's a positive thing,

“But this is America,” he said. “You've got to win in America.”

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