Falcons overcome slow start, beat Cougars

WOODSTOCK — Central’s boys basketball team gained a valuable lesson in intensity against visiting Manassas Park on Wednesday night.

After struggling through an uninspired first half that included a scoreless second period, the Falcons knew things would have to change over the final two quarters if they hoped to come out on top against the Cougars. Central regrouped in the locker room at the break, rallied from a halftime deficit and held off Manassas Park for a 48-42 Bull Run District win.

“The first half was probably some of the weakest basketball I’ve played in my whole life,” said Falcons senior Sam Barbour, who led Central with 16 points to go along with eight rebounds and three assists. “As a team, we were all just lacking intensity. It just came down to if we wanted to win we’d have to pick it up a notch. We did that. We came out in the third quarter and played a really intense, hard-fought third quarter.”

Barbour and Falcons junior Austin Fadely assumed much-needed leadership roles for Central (2-1, 2-1 Bull Run) in the second half, as the duo combined to score 31 points, all but three of which came in the third and fourth quarters.

Barbour scored 13 of his points in the third period, while Fadely scored the final 15 points for the Falcons, including 12 in the fourth quarter.

Barbour’s scoring outburst in the third quarter couldn’t have come at a better time for the Falcons, who went 0 for 9 from the floor in the second period and turned the ball over six times, allowing Manassas Park (1-3, 0-2) to take an 18-15 lead into halftime.

With his team trailing 20-15 early in the second half, Barbour scored seven consecutive points to help Central keep pace with the Cougars, who scored on four of their first five possessions of the third period.

“We were lacking scoring and the way I could contribute was getting to the rim,” Barbour said. “Two shots fell for me, and I was glad that happened, but each of us on the floor needed to find a way to contribute and that’s what we did.”

Central trailed 27-22 three minutes into the second half before Falcons junior Kobi Hoover (nine points) connected on a 3-pointer — his third of the night — to jumpstart a 14-2 Central run to close out the frame.

Barbour contributed six more points during the spurt, and Fadely — who was coming off a career-high 33 points in Monday’s win over Warren County — capped the run with his first points of the night on a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the third period to give the Falcons a 36-29 lead.

Central head coach Brandon Shields said the Falcons’ switch from man defense to an extended 2-1-2 zone trap gave the team a little extra boost in the third period.

“We were joking in there after the game like ‘you guys weren’t sweating until after the third quarter was over.’ They came off and it’s was like ‘you’re breathing hard now,'” Shields said of the third quarter. “[The zone] kind of forced them to do something because if they don’t move in that they’re just going to shoot layups. And they did a couple times, but I thought we got more out of that than it hurt us. We got some turnovers. We got some quick shots. We didn’t let them just do what they wanted. We took away some of their penetration from it.”

Manassas Park rallied in the fourth period, and back-to-back 3-pointers by Marcus Lawson (16 points) and Drew Lucas (15 points) cut Central’s lead to 41-40 with 3:23 left to play.

Fadely answered with a driving bucket a minute later, and he connected on a critical baseline jumper with one minute remaining to put the Falcons up 45-40.

“A lot of my teammates said ‘hey, you need to take control.’ So I started just going to the basket and drawing fouls, which I wish I would’ve done the whole night,” said Fadely, who also had a team-high seven assists.

Fadely put the Falcons up six points with a free throw with 16 seconds remaining, and he added two more free throws for good measure with one second remaining.

“There just wasn’t a lot of urgency tonight. I think that was the biggest thing, just a lack of a sense of urgency,” Shields said. “In our district, it doesn’t matter who it is, if you don’t show up ready to go, you’re going to be in a dogfight. And that’s what it turned into there at the end.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com