Fairfax center Brian Buchanan can be a monumental problem for opponents. It took Stuart three players taking turns to slow him up last night.
In the end, that proved the difference. The collective defensive efforts of Calvin Barnes, Matt Hood and Troy Robinson wore down Buchanan and the Rebels, 74-65, at home. The victory gave the Raiders sole possession of first place in the AAA Potomac District with a 5-1 mark, 9-5 overall. Fairfax dropped to 4-2, 10-3.
It was a rough game -- 40 personal fouls were called -- and anyone venturing into the lane paid for it. Buchanan, at 6 feet 4, got help from 6-3 forward Bill Pulsipher in their battle for rebounding supremacy against Stuart's frontline trio.
"Brian Buchanan is one of the best centers in the league. That's why it was so multi-physical," said Stuart's Walter Wright, who hit 11 of 12 free throws, including five of six down the stretch for a game-high 29 points. "We tried to box him out and that made it even more physical because Brian never quit."
Stuart led by 16 early in the third period, but Fairfax had cut the deficit by 10 with a minute remaining. Wright's jumper in the lane with 17 seconds left gave the Raiders a 53-45 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The final period was marred by 16 fouls -- eight on each team -- and three Fairfax starters remained in the game with four personals each. Despite the foul trouble, the Rebels pulled to 61-56 on Buchanan's two free throws with 3:26 left, but could get no closer.
Wright scored the Raiders' final five points from the foul line.
Fairfax opened the game in a diamond-and-one defense designed to hamper Wright. Kyle Gregory and Trey Reed were effective for a while at denying Wright as the Rebels built a 9-6 lead midway through the first quarter.
But with 2:44 left, Barnes hit two free throws to begin an 11-2 Stuart run. Wright hit a pair of three-point goals and Robinson came off the bench to score 10 points as the Raiders moved out to a 29-18 lead.