The roller coaster of youth

Published 2:30 pm Thursday, December 20, 2018

The start to the 2018-19 season has been a little up and down for Fuqua School’s varsity boys basketball team, but the young Falcons are surprising opponents.

On Dec. 14, Fuqua defeated visiting Banner Christian School 63-52, a day after falling 59-52 in a highly competitive battle against visiting Fork Union Military Academy.

Banner Christian led its game against the Falcons 14-12 after the first quarter before the home team went up 29-20 at halftime.

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“I thought that … we started really slow in the first half,” Fuqua Head Coach Mike Edwards said. “Granted we were up nine. I just felt as if we did not play how I expect my teams to play, and when we came out in the third quarter, they played how I expected my teams to play.”

The Falcons outscored their visitors 23-11 in the third quarter.

Entering the game, Banner Christian had only one loss, while the Falcons were at .500 — 3-3.

Accounting for his players’ slow start, Edwards said, “They didn’t have the level of focus that they needed to (have) coming out and playing against a team like that. Banner Christian’s a great team. They’ve had some really big wins thus far this season. … They (were) 4-1 for a reason. So, I expressed to my team that ‘we’re not playing up to par. If you guys play like you did last night against Fork Union, there’s no question that we should be up by more.’”

Fuqua now has an overall record of 4-3.

“It’s been a roller coaster, but having a young team, that’s how it’s going to be with us,” Edwards said. “We’re still learning how to win games. I think we were up by 28 (against Banner Christian). I think we ended the game up by 11 …”

The 2017-18 Falcons went 15-3 and featured eight seniors led by standout point guard Tyler Thomas, who is now playing for Guilford College.

This season, Fuqua’s roster is comprised of one senior, three juniors, six sophomores and two freshmen.

Though the team is young, Edwards has confidence in it.

“Our main goal is to make states,” he said. “I know the past few years that they’ve had great records, but they just haven’t gotten into states, and in our first meeting, I told our guys that our goal is to make states.”

He noted that some might say he should have simply said, “We’re about winning a state championship.”

“I told my guys that ‘if we make states, there’s no question I think we can make a run and win a championship,’” he said. “‘You just need to get there first and then we can continue on surprising teams …”

Addressing why the team hasn’t made states in recent years, Edwards said, “I wouldn’t say it’s the difficulty of schedule. I just think that you’ve got to get out there and really just find those opportunities when they come. So, I’ve just been lucky enough that we have two Christmas tournaments that opened up, I got us into those two, and teams just saying that they’ll play us. I think a lot of guys felt as if we were still going to be down a little bit, and they put us on their schedule, and we’re just surprising a lot of people …”

A star for the team so far has been junior point guard Jaylen Hempfield, who has led the team in scoring.

Other standouts include junior wing Matt Osborn, junior guard Drew Osborn, freshman shooting guard Matt Hempfield and freshman guard Tanner Thomas.

Edwards said he hopes to get senior Tanner Cyrus and sophomore Maureon Tisdale-Couch back from injury soon.

On Friday at 3:30 p.m. the Falcons begin play in the Atlantic Shores Christmas Tournament, facing First Colonial High School, a Virginia High School League Class 6 team.