BY MIKE URSERY
The Fayette Falcons reached a new milestone under fifth-year head coach Ben Pallardy last week. The team set a new career-high for season wins for Pallardy.
The Falcons went 18-9 last year, extending a trend of improvement after Pallardy’s first season. This season, Fayette picked up their 18th win on Feb. 2, defeating Scotland County 63-47.
With two more games to play before the start of the Class 2 District 8 tournament, the Falcons are sitting with 20 wins. They picked up two wins last week, defeating the Brookfield Bulldogs 67-35 on Feb. 8, and the Marceline Tigers, a 53-45 victory, on Feb. 9.
The win over Marceline was the 20th for Fayette, matching their win total from the 2010-2011 season. The win also improved their conference record to 5-1, keeping them in a first place tie with the Harrisburg Bulldogs in the Lewis and Clark Conference.
“This is the most important time of the year,” Pallardy said after the conclusion of the game against Brookfield. “We’re trying to win a conference title, or at least split for it. We control our destiny with that. Us and Harrisburg both have one loss in the conference (standings), so both teams control their destiny to at least get a share of the title. Right now, that’s our ultimate focus. When we get to districts, we’ll worry about districts.”
Pallardy said in the same interview that this is the time when the team needs to hit its stride. He said that the win over Brunswick gave the team confidence.
“What the guys are really starting to see is that when we play the right way, and when we’re setting screens for each other, we can be really good,” Pallardy said. “When we get stagnant, and the ball is not moving as much, we can be very average. I think the guys are really starting to realize that, and we need to hit our stride right now.”
Fayette senior guard Blake Dawson set a new career-high by scoring 42 points against Brunswick. That performance beat an earlier performance this season, when he scored 40 points against Glasgow at the Slater Wildcat Classic.
“He obviously played really well, and shot the ball really well,” Pallardy said. “He didn’t take any bad shots. Everything was within flow. Every thing was within the offense. He mixed in hitting (3-pointers) with getting to the basket.”
Pallardy said that when Fayette played at Brunswick last season, Dawson scored only four points. He was frustrated with that performance, and it probably sat in the back of his mind, Pallardy said.
Both sets of bleachers resembled a sea of pink when the Falcons hosted Brunswick on Feb. 8. The game was designated as “Pink Out” night. The night’s theme was about cancer awareness, as students and faculty at Fayette High School raised money for charity.
Dawson scored the first nine points for Fayette, all from behind the 3-point line. He hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter. He added a 3-point play and a free throw to score 19 points in the opening period.
Fayette jumped out to a 23-7 lead in the first quarter, but were in no position to coast to an easy win early on. Brookfield closed the opening period on a 9-2 run, making the score 25-16 at the buzzer.
The Bulldogs continued to claw their way back into the game. They scored six of the first eight points of the quarter, cutting the deficit to only five points. The score was 27-22 with 6:56 left in the half.
After a timeout called by the Falcons, the home team began to change the narrative of the game.
“Maybe we just thought the game was over, or maybe we thought we were going to coast, and I didn’t like that,” Pallardy said. “I didn’t like how we went into cruise control and let them cut it down to five or six, or whatever it was.”
After the timeout, Fayette went on a 9-2 run of their own, pushing their lead back to double-digits. The score was 36-24 with 2:58 left in the half.
The Falcons continued to be stingy on defense. The score at halftime was 39-26.
The stinginess from Fayette’s defense continued in the second half. In fact, they helf Brookfield scoreless the entire third quarter.
“We have the ability to lock anybody down,” Pallardy said. “We talked about that a little bit at halftime. We just tried to reiterate how good we really are. When we play with great intensity, and great attention to detail, we are a great defensive team, which fuels us on the offensive end. We just needed to get back to that. We just needed to get back to playing our game and being aggressive, and moving our feet.”
Dawson had 29 of his 42 points in the first half. He scored 11 points in the third quarter to tie what was his career high of 40 points.
Fayette hosted senior night on Feb. 13, as they recognized to senior Falcons and one senior Lady Falcon. The two senior Falcons are Dawson and Chavez Kent. The one senior Lady Falcon is Sam Conrow.
Fayette closes out the 2017-2018 regular season with a game at Schjyler County on Feb. 16.