When Fairfax Coach Mike Barbee told his team at the start of the season that there would be no real starting lineup this year and the offense would be centered around the post, the Rebel players were a bit confused. The confusion then brimmed to slight frustration as Fairfax started 3-6 against a string of tough opponents.
But as the young group of Rebels, featuring just one returning starter and few players with varsity experience, were forced to lean on one another in learning their new style of play, a chemistry developed that set the foundation for Barbee’s balanced approach.
After having 10 different players score in a Dec. 30 win against Patriot, the Rebels (7-7) have won three of their last four games behind three different leading scorers.
“We’ve learned to move the ball around well in our offense to where it doesn’t have to be just one person scoring; we all can work together to get the best shot,” said Jack Allsopp, who leads the Rebels with 12.1 points per game. “Even though it was new and a bit frustrating at first, we now have found what can be done when we settle down in our offense and execute properly.”
Along with Allsopp and junior guard Alan Liu, the Rebels have received a spark from junior center Nathan Roberts. The junior dropped 50 pounds during the offseason to reach his current weight of about 197 and tirelessly worked on his skills to become a force in the middle for Fairfax. Against South Lakes, Roberts blocked a school-record 12 shots, and in Friday’s win against Marshall, he scored 11 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and tallied six blocks.
“Halfway through my JV season, Coach Barbee told me that he saw my potential and that if I became more athletic and stronger, that I could do well at the varsity level,” Roberts said. “I worked on my shot, my footwork and post moves and it seems to be paying off.”
The Rebels hope to continue their success as they enter Virginia 6A Conference 6 play with Friday’s game against Yorktown. Aiding their cause is the schedule — the Raiders close the season with five of their final eight games at home — as well as the Rebels’ newfound understanding of what it takes to play within themselves and execute.
“We changed the way we played a good bit, and the first couple weeks, it looked pretty ugly,” Barbee said. “But now that we’ve got some game reps under our belt, we’re shooting a lot better and we don’t get caught up in adversity like we were before when we had a bad stretch because the guys know they can pull together and pull through it. This is the most balanced team I’ve ever had and it’s fun to coach.”