Fauquier 61, Handley 52

Fauquier clearly has returned to form.

After suffering its first losing season in eight years, the Falcons have won 10 consecutive games this season, the latest a 61-52 victory last night at Handley, which entered having won seven straight.

"We might have finished second in the district last year, but we didn't have a winning record," said Fauquier senior Nate Johnson, who scored a game-high 20 points. "When you think about all the guys that came before us that helped make that streak, it felt like we let them down being the ones who broke it."

Fauquier went 9-12 last year and opened the 2002-03 season with a 63-52 loss to Broad Run. But the Falcons haven't lost since, and victories last week against Liberty and last night against the Judges have put them in control of the Virginia AA Northwestern District.

At first glance, Fauquier (10-1, 5-0) is not a very imposing team. The Falcons run an offense that essentially features five guards. Its center, in name only, is 6-foot-5 senior Kevin Kelley, who leads the team in just about every offensive and defensive category. The offense usually runs through Kelley at the top of the key, where he is liable to take a three-pointer, as is anyone else on the court with him.

But more often than not, that person would be Johnson, a 5-9 guard who has a soft outside touch. He averages more than three three-pointers per game, and he reached that mark in the game-changing sequence late in the second quarter.

Handley (7-3, 2-1) scored six consecutive points to tie the game at 18 with just under four minutes to go before halftime. Johnson then hit consecutive three-pointers to spark a 13-2 run that carried into halftime. With Fauquier leading 26-20, Falcons senior Jonathan Ross drew a charge at midcourt that Handley Coach Tom Dixon argued into the ensuing timeout.

Dixon was assessed a technical foul, and Johnson hit the free throws. He followed that with another three-pointer on the subsequent possession to give Fauquier its biggest margin yet. Handley never came closer than six the rest of the way.

"That certainly was big," Fauquier Coach Wayne Brizzi said. "Nate's threes and the free throws were a big push for us."