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Comets back in winning groove

South Boston News
Comet guard Keyshawn Johnson (10) goes high to the basket against Gretna Saturday night. (David Conner II photo)
SoVaNow.com / January 27, 2014
Even though this was not a Piedmont District game, there is a reasonable chance Halifax County basketball partisans will look back very favorably on Saturday’s scrappy win over Gretna.

The Comets snapped a two-game losing skid, after dropping a tough road loss to Magna Vista in district action Friday. With the 53-44 win over Gretna, HCHS improved to 12-5 and regained some positive momentum for an important week ahead.

HCHS has Tunstall at home tonight in makeup action, followed by Bassett Tuesday and then traditional rival GW-Danville Friday.

Six Comets got into the scoring column against Gretna. Tavion Petty drained four treys and finished with 16 points. James Burden had a strong third period and finished with ten. Keyshawn Johnson scored nine points. Treyvon Brandon hit a pair of 3s in the second period and finished with eight. Trelanne Johnson had six and Will Miller added four, while adding a strong rebounding presence early.

Gretna had three players in double figures, led by V. Glass with 14. Halifax did not always play stylish basketball against the Hawks Saturday night, in a game that had to be moved to the Middle School. But the Comets did enough things the right way to nail down an important win for HCHS head coach Larry Epperly and his charges.

Halifax, which finished 9-12 the past two seasons, has enjoyed significant improvement this season. But these Comets also are battling through a challenging stretch.

HCHS had a heartbreaking loss in recent district action to a talented Franklin County team. Then, after inclement weather forced a break, the Comets suffered a disheartening road win to Magna Vista.

“We had a tough week,” said Epperly.

“We lost a close game to Franklin County, and I’m just now starting to see what that took out of us. That was such an emotional game. We’re battling to get back to where we were, we really are. We’re not playing with the passion we need to play with to get something done, long-term.

But Saturday’s trial against the Hawks proved very important.

“We needed to win in the worst way. That was the biggest thing. Was our execution good all night? No.

“We’re playing kind of lazy on defense right now. I don’t know if we’re tired or what,” said Epperly.

“We just have to get back, shore some things up. I think playing home Monday will do us a lot of good. We’ve got three home games, and that’ll help us get going,” said Epperly.

“We’ve got to hang tough. The season is based on ups and downs and you’ve got to make sure you survive the downs. We had a tough week, and now we’ve got to get it going again,” he said.

HCHS had a steady performance, for the most part, against the Hawks.

HCHS led by four, 12-8, at the end of the first period.

Miller sent a terrific pass to Brandon, who sank a 3-pointer, for a 15-8 Halifax advantage. But Gretna kept on hanging around.

Gretna trailed, 16-12, but the Hawks forced a 16-all tie with a solid inside feed. T. Johnson then threaded through several Gretna defenders and gave the Comets an 18-16 lead.

The Hawks continued to look into the paint for scoring chances, while HCHS relied on both dribble drive penetrations and outside shooting.

HCHS led, 28-22, at halftime after a timely basket from K. Johnson.

Halifax had some errors in the third period, but the Comets still maintained a working margin over a Hawks team that appeared to have improved since the Holiday classic.

T. Johnson threaded a crisp pass to Burden for a 32-26 Comet lead. Gretna battled to hang around, but the Comets had excellent ball rotation, culminating with another Petty score. After a Gretna turnover, Petty drained a 3-pointer for a nine-point Comet lead, 39-30, with 2:30 remaining in the contest.

Burden was later fouled and drained both free throws for a 41-32 Comet lead with 1:48 remaining in the period.

HCHS led, 43-36, heading to the final stanza.

T. Johnson hit from the top of the key, and Halifax led, 45-38. With 5:44 remaining, HCHS led by five, 45-40. HCHS had some choppy moments late, but Petty drained a critical 3-pointer with 3:58 left, and HCHS had a 48-40 advantage.

Petty struck again from beyond the arc, extending the Comet lead to 51-40, with 3:13 left. Gretna had to call timeout to try and quell the Comet momentum.

Gretna scored down low to cut the Comet lead to 51-42. After a Comet miss, Gretna turned the ball over. T. Johnson then delivered an important rebound and ensuing basket for a 53-42 lead with 2:02 left in the contest. Gretna got a steal and layup to cut the Comet lead to 53-44. The Comets were able to hold on from there.

Petty said his overall shooting was improved from the Magna Vista loss. “It’s still a little shaky. I missed a whole lot of open shots, shots I should have made,” said Petty.

Petty, moreover, had key 3s.

“It was about being clutch at the end. Somebody had to step up and give us the lead at the end so we can push out and get this win,” said the Comet guard.

“Hopefully, this (Gretna win) makes us more confident and get back to our regular selves. We fell off the last couple of games and we’ve got to get off to the (overall level) we were the beginning of the season,” said Petty.

HCHS again had an edge in 3-point shooting. The Comets had six, while Gretna did not connect beyond the arc. Gretna’s game focused on layups and striking in the low post, and they were very effective there at times. But Gretna could not mount enough consistent offense.

Halifax had the edge getting to the line. The Comets were 11-of-14, while Gretna went 4-for-4.

T. Johnson also saw some room for improvement. He also focused on getting his teammates involved.

“Scoring doesn’t mean nothing to me. I like rebounding and getting steals. I let my teammates score. That’s what I did tonight,” said T. Johnson.

“We needed to break the two-game losing streak. The defense was a little weak. We were not getting good shots, not good effort. But tonight we brought it to get the win.”

COMET NOTEBOOK: HCHS rebounded from a disappointing loss at Magna Vista Friday, and Epperly regretted offensive inconsistency by the Comets.

“We’re so dependent on making shots, and they (Magna Vista) zoned us for 40 minutes. We just could not make a shot. We just struggled to make shots. We made some mistakes on defense. “They just played really good and caught us on a night when we were better than we were,” said Epperly.

HCHS had its chances late.

The Comets were down by one with 38 seconds left, and then Halifax committed a foul that Epperly did not want. “We made some mental errors,” said Epperly.

Halifax is 6-3 in the Piedmont district after the loss to Magna Vista.

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