Falcons Win First-Ever Playoff Game

Published 2:00 pm Friday, March 2, 2012

One week ago, fresh off an upset loss to Kenston Forest in the quarterfinals of the VCC Tournament, things didn't look all that promising for the Fuqua School boys basketball team. However, the Falcons' season went from head coach Marcus Gregory questioning whether the team deserved a spot in this weeks VISBA Division III Tournament to a venture into uncharted territory. All in an eight-day span.

Fuqua saw its season come to an end on Wednesday night at top-seeded Williamsburg Christian in a 76-34 loss. But that was not before the Falcons won their first-ever State Tournament game in a come-from-behind victory over Wakefield Academy 67-58 on Tuesday night.

“They do deserve to be here,” said Gregory in reference to his feelings last week. “The day following the loss to Kenston Forest, we had a team meeting to discuss if we got invited to the tournament would we want to take it. They were in 100 percent agreement that we wanted to continue on. We had some very intense practices leading up to this game.”

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No matter how hard the Falcons prepared, things didn't look too promising for them to start out on Tuesday night at Wakefield.

The Fighting Owls grabbed leads of 16-0 and 19-2, before the Falcons knew what hit them. Wakefield took its largest lead of the game on a three-pointer by Zack Swallow. It was the third three-pointer by the Fighting Owls in the quarter.

The Falcons started to hit the boards and scratched their way back to a 19-7 deficit by the end of the quarter, as Antonio Gonzalez scored the final three points of the period.

Fuqua continued to chop away at Wakefield's lead. A three-pointer by Jai Jamerson sliced the Owl's lead under ten points at 23-16 with 5:25 remaining. Wakefield ran off a quick 7-0 run to take a 30-16 lead with 4:25 left, but the Falcons ended the quarter on a 12-0 run. Senior guard Landon Allen scored ten of those 12 points, including a conversion of a three-point play with two minutes remaining to pull Fuqua to within two points at 30-28 – the halftime score.

<!– 1upcrlf2 –>Wakefield extended its lead back to seven points at 35-28 with a 5-0 run at the beginning of the half. Junior forward Carter Cunningham scored 15 of his game-high 21 points in the third quarter, as the Falcons continued to swing momentum their way. Cunningham gave Fuqua its first lead by hitting a pair of foul shots at 40-39 with 3:01 left in the third. He gave the Falcons the lead for good at 45-44 on a three-pointer with 1:25 remaining.

Fuqua led 49-46 going into the fourth quarter, and started to break the game open with 4:30 left when Charles Williams hit a pair of free throws, and then stole the ball at mid-court and converted a transition bucket to give FS a 58-52 advantage. That jump-started an 8-0 run that gave FS a 62-52 lead with 1:41 remaining. Fuqua hit enough foul shots over the remainder of the game to record the nine-point victory.

“We really got off to a slow start, but we kept fighting and were able to crawl back into the game. We talked about it during a time out. We need to get one stop at a time. One bucket at a time. Our inside guys, Cyrus, Cunningham and Williams made the difference in the ballgame. Once we got rebounds, things came a lot easier. Defensively, once our guards started to eliminate open shots from the outside, we were able to turn the tide.

“We found our heart tonight. The heart we thought we had. It takes hard work to maintain it, and it's even harder to get it back. I'm proud of the guys for facing adversity the way they did. We could've gone one of two ways after last week, but they worked hard to come together as a team.”

Cunningham led all scorers with 21 points on the evening. Gonzales and Williams scored 12 apiece, while Allen added 11.

Swallow led Wakefield with 20 points, while Nic Clem scored 16.

Fuqua got off to a similar start in Wednesday night's quarterfinal game at Williamsburg Christian. The Falcons, however, were unable to get the same result.

Williamsburg Christian scored the first 18 points of the game, before Allen hit a three-pointer with 3:48 left in the opening quarter. That was the only bucket Fuqua was able to muster in the first eight-minute period. The Falcons trailed 23-3 going into the second.

Anytime Fuqua was able to get something going, Williamsburg Christian was able to stop it and answer with a large run of its own. Fuqua scored two quick buckets on a stickback by Davis Cyrus and a runner by Gonzalez. Though the Fuqua defense came up with another stop, Williamsburg Christian regained possession and went on a 7-0 run in a span of less than a minute.

Fuqua cut the WCA lead to 32-12 on a layup by Williams, but the hosts closed the half on an 8-0 run to lead 40-12 at the intermission.

Other than a couple of three pointers by Allen, the Falcons were unable to get any offense generated in the second half. Allen buried three three-pointers in the third period. Williamsburg Christian continued to expand its lead, though it was substituting liberally.

Allen was the only Fuqua player to score in double-figures. He had 17 points. All other scorers, with the exception of Josh Davis, who had six points in the fourth, could only manage one or two.

“This is where we want our program to be one day. This is probably the best team we've played all year, and it showed. We came into this game knowing it was a tall order, but we came down here expecting to win. I have to hand it to the guys. They were in the right frame of mind, but our execution was off, and against a team like this, you've got to be perfect.”

The lopsided loss aside, Gregory was still proud of what his team was able to achieve this week.

“We achieved a couple of goals, and I'm proud of that. We've gotten farther than any other team before. After a little break, we'll do what we're able to do in preparation for next year. We found out that we have a good foundation to build on.