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Liberty’s Krasniqi finds redemption in win over Fauquier boys

Wednesday, Jan. 30 | By Jeff Malmgren
Aaron Patterson led Liberty with 20 points during a 47-46 victory over Fauquier on Wednesday. --Photo by Adam Goings
Arber Krasniqi blew a layup the last time he got his hands on the ball during the final seconds of a game.
He redeemed himself Wednesday by sealing a 47-46 victory for the Liberty Eagles on the road in Warrenton against the Fauquier Falcons.

With about three seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Krasniqi got his hand on layup attempt by Fauquier's Dillon Tapscott, allowing the Eagles to hang onto their one-point advantage. Tapscott used a high screen and hesitation dribble to penetrate toward the basketball, but Krasniqi was among the Eagles who stepped up to contest his shot.

"Dillon's a good driver and he didn't have much time to make a pass, so I knew he was going to float it up," Krasniqi said. "I didn't even jump. I just went and took it away. I just wanted to make the stop for my team."

On Jan. 22, Krasniqi missed an open go-ahead layup with about eight second remaining in the fourth quarter against Kettle Run, so Liberty lost, 52-51.

"That was horrible. I was really upset with myself," he said. On Wednesday "I got the game-winning block. So much better."

That block also strengthened Liberty's standing in the Evergreen District. The Eagles (10-10) improved their district record to 5-1 and remain tied for the lead with Kettle Run, while Fauquier (8-10) fell to 3-2.

"Kettle Run, they beat us and played really well," Eagles coach Pat Frazer said of the 52-51 loss. "We're just trying to stay competitive with them."

The Eagles' and Cougars' rematch will be Feb. 5 in Bealeton.

Liberty's win over Fauquier was more reminiscent of their first meeting this season than their second. The Eagles crushed Fauquier, 71-39, Jan. 4 in Bealeton. However, in Warrenton on Dec. 28 the Falcons edged the Eagles in double overtime, 80-79, so Patterson expected something similar Wednesday.

"A dog fight," he said. "Their fan base in incredible. They feed off that energy" on their home court.

Fauquier, in fact, made four of 11 3-pointers in the third quarter to build a lead as large as 35-29 after the teams entered halftime in a tie, 21-all.

"We've gotten a lot of momentum off that" this season, Falcons coach Wayne Brizzi said of 3-pointers.
That momentum ended early in the fourth quarter, though. In the span of 21 seconds, Aaron Patterson made a layup and two free throws followed by a Krasniqi layup, all without Fauquier taking possession. Referees called a technical foul on the Falcons' bench following that Patterson layup, which led to the free throws and an additional Eagles' possession on which Krasniqi scored.

"Big time" momentum change, Brizzi said. "That's a six-point swing."

That sequence gave Liberty a 38-35 lead and was part of a 12-1 Eagles run to open the fourth quarter. The Falcons fell behind 42-36 and never retook the lead.

In the fourth, Liberty implemented a full-court press for the first time, which quickened the tempo.

"We want to push it up, but … I was kind of waiting to use it," Frazer said. "We could not play like that for four quarters … especially with a rivalry game – the energy" needed.

Patterson benefited most by scoring nine of his game-high 20 points in the final period. Plus, Krasniqi six of his eight points in the fourth.

The Eagles needed Krasniqi as a scorer secondary to Patterson because the Falcons held Xavier Colbert to only five points.

"X especially was giving me some nice passes," Krasniqi said. "When he drives, we know they're going to try to trap him. Our job is to flash open. He'll find us. He's an all-around player."

Colbert finished with a game-high six assists, but struggled to get open shots against the defense of Jeremiah Blackwell, who also led Fauquier with 11 points.

Tapscott had 11 points too, plus five assists and four steals. Jay Jay Roberts added nine rebounds, six points and three steals, while Leif Heltzel had seven points and five rebounds.

For Liberty, Armend Krasniqi had 12 rebounds and six points, while Chris Vorrath had six points and two steals, and Colbert had seven rebounds.

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