Junior forward Russell Booker, Liberty's leading scorer last season, took a reduced scoring role this year, knowing the Eagles needed his defense and rebounding more than his points. Luckily for Liberty, though, Booker did not forget how to shoot.
Booker took just three shots yesterday -- all three-pointers and all in the second half -- and made them all as Liberty erased a 16-point third-quarter deficit to win its Virginia AA Region II quarterfinal at Broad Run, 59-57.
It was the first regional tournament victory for Liberty (17-6), a nine-year-old school that will face Fauquier County's other public high school, Fauquier High, at 7 p.m. Monday in the regional semifinals at James Madison University. Fauquier (22-2) avenged one of its two regular season losses yesterday by defeating Park View, 69-42.
The winner of that game -- a rematch of the Northwestern District final, won by Fauquier -- will clinch a berth in the Virginia AA tournament.
Broad Run scored 17 of the game's first 21 points and led 36-20 a minute and a half into the third quarter. Liberty then went to full-court pressure, and that frustrated Broad Run, which had run an efficient half-court offense in the second quarter.
Broad Run led 45-37 early in the fourth quarter when Booker hit his first three-pointer. Kirk Melvin responded with one of his own for Broad Run on the next possession, but Booker came right back, converting from the top of the key. Booker's third basket with 2 minutes 47 seconds to play gave Liberty a 52-48 lead, capping a 15-3 run that put Liberty up for good.
"All season long, I've been shooting threes in practice," said Booker, whose scoring average has dropped by 50 percent this season, from 10.8 to 5.4. "During the game, I was just trying to pass the ball around, getting other guys open, but Coach [Paul Frye] told me to start shooting when I was open."
Liberty junior center Jeff Washington scored a game-high 20 points. Ryan Koppel had 16 for Broad Run (19-6), which had its winningest season since its 1969 opening.
In the other semifinal, Fauquier reserves Dwayne Foddrell, Justin Reavis, Jonathan Ross and Christopher Douglas gave the Falcons' potent offense some added punch in Warrenton.
The quartet combined for 21 points, 10 rebounds and 7 steals and was instrumental in wearing down Park View in the second half. Fauquier led, 30-24, at the half but went on a 10-0 run to start the third quarter and led by 20 points with four minutes remaining in the game.
Fauquier senior guard Ricardo White scored a game-high 16 points, including four three-pointers.
"We know when our bench is on and our starters are on, we can't be beat," said Foddrell, who scored eight points. "We've been playing so good lately that when the starters come out, there's no drop-off, and that's the advantage of being able to go so deep in the bench."
Fauquier now can look ahead to its semifinal game with Liberty, a team it has defeated twice this season -- 58-49 in the district finals last Monday and 70-63 on Jan 10.
"It's tough to beat a team three times," said Fauquier senior forward Kevin Kelley, who had 10 points. "All I can say is that it's going to be tough."
Park View finished 12-12.