Fairfax High’s basketball postseason of 2012 will long be remembered because of the team’s success as well as the grit and determination the Rebels showcased as three of their playoff contests were decided in overtime.
Fairfax’s highly successful first season under head coach Mike Barbee ended last Saturday night when, in its third overtime playoff affair over nine days of postseason play, the Rebels lost to Edison, 69-65, in the Northern Region tournament semifinals game played at Robinson Secondary.
With the defeat, Fairfax’s season ended with a 16-12 record. Edison (19-9), with the win over the Rebels, advanced to the region title game and also qualified for this week’s state AAA tournament. The Eagles, in Monday’s region finals at Robinson, lost to Westfield, which captured its’ first-ever region crown. Edison is scheduled to play a state quarterfinals round playoff game this Friday night (March 2) in Richmond against Petersburg High.
Fairfax, following an 11-10 regular season, was not considered one of the region’s elite teams going into the postseason. But at the Liberty District Tournament, the Rebels, as the No. 4-seed, won their quarterfinals round game over No. 5 Stone Bridge, 61-54, to advance to the semifinals and also earn an automatic seeding for the next week’s 16-team regionals.
In the district semifinals, Fairfax stunned top seed Langley, the three-time defending district champions, by a 56-49 score. That advanced the Rebels to the district title game on Feb. 17 at South Lakes High School. There, against No. 2-seed McLean, Fairfax fell behind 11-0 at the start but rallied and ultimately took the contest to double overtime before falling 60-57.
McLean senior guard Gordon Rogo scored 21 points and earned tournament MVP honors. Fairfax junior shooting guard Zack Burnett scored 24 points in the finals loss to the Highlanders and was named to the All-Tournament Team, along with teammate John Robic.
“It was a great game,” said Barbee, of the two overtime district finals. “Gordon Rogo really elevated his game in the tournament. We couldn’t keep him out of the paint. I was extremely pleased with the way my team battled in the game. It would’ve been easy for us to give up after getting down 11-0 to a team of McLean’s ability but we did a great job staying composed and fighting back.”
The dramatic loss to McLean was not the ending coach Barbee and his team had hoped for once they had reached the finals, but the Rebels had stepped up in a big time way at districts and were hungry to see how far they could go at regionals.
FAIRFAX OPENED regionals with another overtime game - defeating cross-town opponent and host team W.T. Woodson by a 54-51 score on Feb. 20. Burnett, who was having a sensational postseason, led the Rebels with 20 points in the victory and teammate Robic added 11. Woodson, a member of the Patriot District, was led by Alfred Carr’s 14 points. The Cavaliers, with the loss, finished the season 20-5.
Fairfax, in its second round (quarterfinals) game on Feb. 22, soundly defeated visiting Yorktown (National District), 58-38. The Rebels, playing in front of their home crowd, jumped out to a 19-5 lead and never looked back. Burnett tallied 15 points and Fairfax’s balanced attack included solid scoring efforts from Robic (11 points), Kris Kostadinov (10), Salim Collins (9), and Daniel Frank (7).
The win moved Fairfax on to the prestigious region Final Four and a meeting versus Edison. Simply getting to the region semifinals was a huge accomplishment for the Rebels.
Fairfax gave Edison all it could handle in the four-point, season-ending overtime loss. After falling behind 19-12 after one quarter, the Rebels came back and had tied the game at the half at 30. Edison appeared to be taking control again in the second half in building a 49-42 lead after three quarters but Fairfax, once again charged back and the game ultimately went into overtime after being tied at 61 following regulation. The Eagles outscored Fairfax 8-4 in the extra session to win and move on to the title game.
Burnett poured in 25 points in the loss to Edison. Kostadinove (11), Robic (11), and Daniel Frank (10) each contributed to the team point total.
Burnett was ultimately named to the seven-member All-Region Tournament Team.
“I cannot say enough about Zack Burnett,” said Barbee. “He can just flat out score. Even in a game like the [district] championship where Zack was off the first half, we knew that it was a matter of time before his shots would start falling. And in the second half he came up big over and over again. And even when he is not scoring, he draws so much attention that it creates opportunities for our other players.”
Throughout the regular season and on into the postseason, Fairfax displayed a will to fight back after falling behind in games. It seemed the Rebels always came up with big runs after falling behind.
“One thing that we really developed as the year went on is a belief that we are never out of game,” said Barbee. “We have had a number of second half comebacks this season so we truly believe we are never out of a game. And we have played in so many close games this season that late game situations don’t seem to faze us as much anymore.”