The Theodore Roosevelt forward flexed after one, pounded his chest after another. But it was his finesse late in the game that had him celebrating the most, as it saved the fourth-ranked Rough Riders from their first loss of the season.
Faulkner scored 20 points and hit five crucial free throws in the final two minutes as Theodore Roosevelt escaped a frantic rally by host Coolidge with a 60-57 win in a key DCIAA contest in Northwest.
“Hustle plays,” faulkner said after the win. “I knew this was a big game for us. I just got a lot of opportunities, and I tried to take care of them.”
Faulkner’s matchup against Coolidge big-man David Kadiri (11 points) became the story line Friday night, especially given Kadiri’s aggressive play in the post — which led to five crowd-pleasing blocks.
But Faulkner was not intimidated and backed up that claim with several two-handed slams in the first half that matched the energy of the Rough Riders (13-0, 4-0).
“I’ve been getting messages from [Coolidge players] all week about this. About how they’re going to blow us out, how they’re going to do this and that,” said Roosevelt forward Tavon Alexander, who had 12 points. “And they looked at me in my eye [after the game] and said good game.”
It was almost the other way around.
Roosevelt never trailed, but after taking a 48-40 lead midway through the fourth, the Rough Riders had to scrap. Coolidge (10-4, 2-1) pulled within 53-49 on an Omar Roberts layup with just under two minutes to play, but Faulkner responded with a thunderous slam on the ensuing possession to push the lead to six. He followed with four consecutive free throws.
Faulkner was disappointed with himself on the final series of plays.
With 10 seconds remaining and his team up 59-57, he hit one of two free throws to give the Colts one last look to tie the game.
He watched as the Colts missed a desperation heave with two seconds left and broke out to hug his teammates after one of the best performances of his career.
“The crowd was loud. This is one of the biggest gyms in D.C.,” Faulkner said. “I was emotional on myself.”