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Comets down Eagles for Senior Night win

South Boston News
GOT IT - Deshaun Clark of the Comet varsity battles two FCHS defenders for the ball. (David Conner II photo)
SoVaNow.com / February 17, 2010
Regardless of how this all plays out tonight, the Halifax County High School boys’ varsity had a successful winter campaign.

The Comets, who defeated Franklin County 65-55 in the Western Valley district regular season finale Tuesday night, have a very difficult assignment tonight. Halifax, which finished as the third seed in the district, has to travel to second seeded GW-Danville in the WVD tournament semifinals.

GW is on a roll and is playing some of its best basketball of the season at this point.

If the Comets win tonight – and GW and Halifax split in the regular season, each winning on its home court – they’ll likely be in the Northwest Regionals for the first time since Lynn Ramage took the reins of the program. For the Comets to advance to the regionals. No. 1 seed PH-Roanoke would also have to beat fourth seeded FCHS.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” said Ramage of the meeting tonight with GW.

Ramage deadpanned, “We won the first time. They won the second time. “Now it’s our turn to win again.”

The Comet coach added, “You have to be able to handle their runs. They have some serious runs. They score a bunch of points in a flurry. You’ve got to contest their shooters.”

If the Comets lose tonight, their season is over.

But if HCHS springs an upset over GW on its home court, the Comets would play for the WVD tournament title Saturday night.

Nevertheless, the Comets are dealing with a tough injury blow, which also impacts their chances of winning tonight.

Ramage said yesterday that senior Kejuan Mayo fractured his left wrist in a mid-game injury against FCHS and is lost for the season. That’s a serious blow for the Comets.

Deshon Dabbs was also injured in Tuesday’s win, but is expected to play tonight.

Mayo hurt his wrist midway through the third period. He went for a block and fell.

Dabbs went out early and finished with two points. Dabbs was hurt with 5:30 left. He went for a layup and was struck by a FCHS player, with a blow landing to the head of the Comet player, according to Ramage.

Mayo, however, certainly proved valuable to the Comets Tuesday night with his scoring, leadership, and overall work on the court.

The Comets finished 4-4 in the WVD, the best regular season mark in the Ramage era and good for third place in the district. PH won it outright with a 7-1 mark, with GW locking down second place at 5-3. HCHS is 4-4, one game ahead of no. 4 seed Franklin County, which finished 3-5 in district play.

Defending Group AAA state runner-up William Fleming, working with a radically depleted lineup this season, closed out in district play at 1-7.

The Colonels did not make the WVD tournament field.

The HCHS bench came through with major contributions, especially after Dabbs and Mayo were hurt in separate incidents against FCHS.

Halifax (12-8) finished with 18 points from Mayo. He also had another double-double, with 10 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass. Mayo had two steals and three blocks.

“It’s a great thing. We knew we could win, at home,” said Mayo. “When we lost Dabbs, we knew somebody had to step up. I stepped up for a while, while I was in. And we had other key guys step up,” said Mayo.

Ramage said the Comets stepped up by committee, with key contributions from Shaq Bailey, Markee Brooks, Keon Gutrich and others.

“They came in and we didn’t miss a beat,” said Ramage, who wanted to play everyone but did not have that opportunity.

Bailey, one of the Comets asked to step up, finished with 10 very valuable points, all in the second half. Marcus Williams did a steady job running the team’s floor game and had eight points. Williams had four rebounds, six assists, two turnovers and one steal. Markee Brooks and Rob Jackson had seven apiece.

Jackson said, “We really needed this. We’ve been through our ups and downs in the season. This game is another step for another victory.

“Kejuan played like a mad animal, man. I’m just happy for him. This is our last time here (Senior Night),” said Jackson.

Demetri Faulkner scored four, while Dashawn Clarke and Keon Gutrich – a key late game contributor – had three apiece.

Faulkner had one rebound, three assists, one turnover and two steals. Bailey had one offensive rebound, six defensive boards, one assist, one steal and one block.

FCHS had three players in double figures, as Chris Tyree had 14 points and Daniel Hutson and D.A. Reynolds finished with ten apiece.

HCHS got out to an excellent start, outscoring the Eagles 20-13 in the first period. Mayo sparked the Comets with eight points and Rob Jackson, a steady leader all season, had five.

Dabbs, who finished with two free throws, got hurt in the second period and did not return. But the Comets refused to wilt.

“We took advantage of what we had,” said Jackson. “Mayo had a big night…. We had players who stepped up, like Shag, Brooks and the other guys.” Franklin County outscored the Comets 13-12 in the second period and cut the Comet lead to 32-26 at the half.

HCHS went on a 17-11 run in the third, as Bailey had four points and Keon Gutrich connected on three of four free throws.

Halifax outscored Franklin 18-16 in the final period and held on, doing enough to win. The Eagles valiantly tried to get back into contention, and their press gave the Comets some problems.

FCHS cut the Comet lead to four, 57-53, with 1:32 remaining, when Reynolds scored down low.

Marcus Williams was fouled, and went to the line with 1:35 remaining. He sank both free throws for a 58-53 Comet lead.

Williams came away with the ball after a Comet defensive stop. Rob Jackson was fouled, only to miss the front end of a one-and-one with 1:08 left.

Gutrich snagged a key rebound. Ramage called that rebound “huge”.

Shag Bailey then hit a free throw after a foul for a 59-53 Comet lead. HCHS finally put it away when FCHS was called for an intentional foul with

49.3 seconds left. Brooks hit the two free throws and HCHS had a 61-53 lead. Bailey then hit the ensuing basket after HCHS retained possession for a 63-53 lead, capping a key 6-0 run for the Comets.

“Every time they would get close, it was key guys who would step up and make buckets and free throws,” said Ramage.

Halifax also had an edge at the foul line, finishing 19-for-37. HCHS hit nine of 17 free throws in the final period. Williams was excellent at the line, connecting on six of eight overall, including five-of-six in the final period.

“Demetri Faulkner had some drives and Shaquan Bailey made free throws. It was always somebody, it wasn’t the same person,” said Ramage.

Regardless of the outcome against GW, HCHS made progress this season. Ramage said he told the players, “if you want to go home (early), you’ve got a chance tgo do it on Thursday. If you want to play next week (in the regionals), you’ve got a chance to do that too.

“Seize the moment, grasp it and embrace it. Don’t have any regrets,” advised the Comet coach, pleading with the team for maximum effort tonight.

HCHS will have to get key contributions across the board to offset the loss of Mayo.

Said Jackson, “We know it’s going to be tough. But we’ve got to be ready. We don’t want to end our season early.”

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