When Fauquier sophomore Lindsey Hazel saw her basketball team's schedule at the start of this season, one date jumped off the page: Nov. 16. That was the day of the Northwestern District championship game as well as her birthday.

Considering the Falcons' 2001 season -- five victories and a sixth-place finish in their district -- a tournament final didn't seem to be something that needed to be written on a calendar. After Fauquier's 51-41 victory over visiting Handley on Thursday night, however, Hazel and her teammates had to make plans for Saturday.

"Lindsey was telling us [Wednesday] that earlier in the season she joked to her mom, 'Wouldn't it be funny if I had to miss my birthday party because we were in the championship game?' " said first-year Fauquier coach Reed Gillespie. "And here we are. It surprised everybody that we got here."

With their victory, the Falcons (14-8) advanced to the district final against top-seeded Liberty, an easy 86-43 winner over James Wood. The championship game ended too late to be included in this edition.

The victory secured Fauquier's first trip to the Region II tournament since 1996, but it wasn't easy.

The upstart Judges (5-18), who entered the tournament as the sixth seed but knocked off Sherando a round earlier, challenged the Falcons. The outcome remained in doubt until Falcons senior forward Ashley Young scored two uncontested layups in the final minute.

After the second, when Gillespie called timeout, Young, fellow senior Hillary Lindsay and junior forward Amy Hauter embraced and shared sighs of relief.

"We were just so excited," Hauter said. "A few of us started crying. We just knew that we had it in the last couple seconds of the game."

The game featured 12 lead changes and nine ties in a back-and-forth first half that ended in a 21-21 tie. Early in the third quarter, however, Hauter completed a three-point play after an offensive rebound and then scored a bucket in transition to give the Falcons a 28-23 lead.

The Judges pulled within a point three times, but Fauquier stiffened. Hauter was a force on both sides of the court with 7 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals, 4 assists and 4 blocks. She, Lindsay and junior guard Sarah Coelho were critical in breaking the Judges' full-court press.

"A lot of the girls on the team went to their game against Sherando and saw they did a lot of pressing," Hauter said. "So we knew they'd press us."

Young and Hazel scored 10 points apiece and combined for 14 rebounds. Lindsay had eight points and four assists.

* LIBERTY 86, JAMES WOOD 43: The host Eagles (20-3) continued their march through Northwestern District competition. Four Liberty players scored in double figures: Jennifer Washington (18 points), Krysta Norman (14), Ryan Washington (14) and Chanita Robinson (11). The Eagles forced 28 turnovers.