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Falcons hold off Eagles, 50-46, in boys basketball

Saturday, Dec. 20 | By Grant Thomas
The Liberty Eagles insist they are better this year, and expect to break through soon. But for now it’s frustrating.

Three days after a 69-59 season-opening loss in the final few minutes to Kettle Run, the Eagles again experienced the sting of a narrow defeat to one of their county brothers. For the second time in a week, Liberty mounted another strong comeback, but fell just short against the Fauquier Falcons, 50-46.

“We had to battle again, and we stepped up,” Eagles’ coach Pat Frazer said. “We just didn’t execute. When you are coming back, absolutely everything has to work…that didn’t happen for us.”

Fauquier, which improved to 2-5, was as desperate for an early season victory as the 0-2 Eagles and got it thanks to clutch execution and poise down the stretch. A 12-0 third quarter run helped Fauquier build a seven-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Fauquier hit six of eight late free throws to clinch it.

“Free throws are always an important part of winning these kinds of games,” said FHS point guard Travis Croson. “If we hadn’t made those and taken advantage of being at the line, there is no way we could have won.”

Liberty guard Josh Foote was responsible for all of Liberty’s points and attempts from the free throw line. He made six of his eight tries, and kept the Eagles within four points and in reach of victory. “We just couldn’t stop fouling [Foote],” Falcons’ coach Wayne Brizzi said. “He was knocking them down at such a high rate, I was afraid they were going to ‘Kettle Run’ us.”

Brizzi’s “Kettle Run” comment was a reference to the excellent free throw shooting by the Cougars against the Eagles a few nights earlier. Kettle Run shot 88 percent from the line, including a phenomenal 15-of-16 success rate in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately for Liberty, the Cougars’ success wasn’t contagious. “If you are trying to make a run late, you have to be able to make that layup, that and-one, that free throw,” Frazer said. “And we almost pulled it off.”

Down 48-46 with 32 seconds to go, the Eagles had managed to get a stop and had a chance to tie. As guard David Milton tried to get a pass up court, Fauquier’s Spicer Sabruno stepped in front and tipped the ball out, allowing Croson to dive and save the ball from going out of play.

The tip ended up in Sabruno’s hands, who dribbled to open space as fast as he could, and began celebrating with his teammates as soon as the final buzzer sounded.

“I think the pressure got to me and the whole team,” Milton said. “We weren’t poised enough, or prepared for the moment. A lot of the players that were on the court down the stretch hadn’t been in that situation before.”

Milton finished with nine points, with teammates Bailey Russell and Hakeem Johnson adding 11 and nine, respectively. Foote scored six.

Fauquier was paced by guards Grant Keithley and Sabruno, who finished with ten and nine points. Travis Croson added eight points along with five rebounds and three steals, his most complete game of the season.

“All the practice work on execution down the stretch with free throws and shot making pays off in the game,” Croson said. “That was easily the best game we have played this season.”

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