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Falin block rescues Bears

By Tanner Cook • Feb 12, 2019 at 12:40 AM

BIG STONE GAP — Union’s Justin Falin must like waiting until the end of games to show his defensive prowess.

Falin had the game-sealing block with less than 10 seconds left to preserve the Bears’ 64-59 win over Lee in their Mountain 7 District tournament opening-round game Monday night.

“On that possession, I was thinking that I was going to need to step up my defense because my man had slipped by me a couple of possessions before and scored,” Falin said. “I was extra motivated and that was probably the most athletic play I’ve ever made. I was just happy to get a hand on it.”

Falin — in addition to his huge swat — kicked in 14 points. Noah Garrison led Union with 16, Alex Rasnick also scored 14 and freshman point guard Andy Jones had 12.

Falin’s block was reminiscent of the one in Union’s Arby’s Classic victory over Alaska’s Wasilla in December. That swat helped make the Bears the first team from Wise County to ever win a game in the prestigious tournament.

Jacob Whitaker had a game-high 24 points and Brayden Bundy fired up 20 to lead Lee. The Generals outplayed the Bears in the second half after Union built its lead as high as 36-16 in the second quarter.

“It’s a good thing we played well in the first half,” Union coach Zack Moore said. “Credit to them in the second half. We really had no answer for Whitaker or (Bundy). They were making shots and when they started pressuring us on defense, we couldn’t make shots.”

The Generals (4-18) started to find a rhythm late in the first half and carried it into the third quarter. With Union up 45-35 with less than three minutes left in the period, Lee had a head of steam.

Down 11 going into the fourth, the Generals charged to within four points, 57-53, with 1:16 left in the game. Connor Giza hit two big free throws and put the Bears up six, but Lee hit three straight buckets while Union only hit free throws, and the lead was 63-59 with 16.1 seconds left.

Lee got the ball on the inbounds, and that was when Falin made his play.

“We took him out before because Antwan (Young) got hurt and then we put him back in,” Moore said. “We got onto him about his defense, but he is so capable of doing things like that. We know that, but when he’s not doing that, we have to put someone else in for him.”

The Bears (13-10) take on Wise Central in the semifinals Wednesday at Gate City. Moore expects a physical game, like the first two that Union dropped earlier in the season, but the Bears have to wipe the slate clean.

“Physically and mentally, we got beat down the stretch here last week. We have to show up and play,” he said. “We know them very well and they know us very well.”

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