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Comets faced significant test with Martinsville

South Boston News
Michael Spraggins powers to the basket despite tough defense from Martinsville. (David Conner II photo) / December 14, 2017
Facing a significant test Tuesday, Halifax County High School varsity basketball proved competitive against Martinsville at home. The Comets failed to execute in the final minutes, losing to the Bulldogs, 52-43.

Halifax fell to 2-3. The Comets have a couple of difficult challenges ahead, with GW-Danville coming Friday and Person County on the road Saturday.

Martinsville did a better job executing in the key late stretch of the game. The Bulldogs outscored Halifax 15-7 in the final period. Halifax outscored Martinsville, 18-13, in the third period.

Jaelen Bennett sank four treys and led the Bulldogs with 17 points. He hit two key 3s in the fourth. T.J. Pettway scored 14. Nigal Davis had nine. Mike Spraggins led the Comets with 11 points. Dashon Louden added nine, while Otis Slayton scored seven.

Halifax battled the Bulldogs in the first half, only to trail at intermission, 24-18. The Comets faded a bit in the last couple of minutes.

But Halifax delivered an 18-point third period, forcing a 33-all tie at the 2:36 mark, on a trey by Terrell Carden, his lone basket of the game.

Louden then took a charge and Slayton executed a smooth move on a reverse layup for a 35-33 Comet lead.

Martinsville refused to fold, as Bennett scored on a backdoor cut to slice the Comet lead to one, 36-35.

Martinsville guard Pettway then scored on effective dribble penetration to hand the Bulldogs a 37-36 lead. That’s how it stood heading into the final period.

Both teams took a crack at the lead, including a nifty spin move by Halifax’s Spraggins for a 38-37 Comet advantage.

After good work on the boards by Spraggins, Halifax’s Slayton scored on a breakaway for a 40-37 lead.

But Davis tied it on a trey, 40-all, with 5:39 left.

Martinsville later clawed to a 42-41 lead on a basket by Pettway off a Bulldog steal.

Bennett later drained a timely 3-pointer, giving the Bulldogs a 45-41 lead. He later struck again from 3-point land for a 48-43 advantage with 2:11 left.

Davis later sealed the win with two free throws, giving the Bulldogs a 50-43 lead with 43.7 seconds remaining.

Comet coach Sterling Williams said the Comets were not playmakers at key times against the zone. Williams suggested elements of panic and inexperience factored in the loss. Halifax had a chance against a really good team, but the Comets could not close the deal.

Halifax struggled to get into gear in the final period, especially in the last two minutes.

In the final 2:28, the Comets lofted two air balls and turned the ball over twice.

Williams wants to see improvement on the defensive end, but also noted Martinsville’s 10 knocked down timely 3 pointers. The Comets missed some defensive assignments, but Williams said these errors are fixable.

“We got off to a good start. We came out of halftime really well. But then, we’ve got to finish the game,” said Williams.

Williams is looking for better execution at times, especially in key moments down the stretch, including the closing bell against Martinsville.

Both GW and Person present significant tests for the Comets.

Bulldog coach Jeff Adkins, whose club went 21-5 a year ago and had a solid playoff run, called this a chess match, with momentum swings back and forth.

Martinsville wanted to control tempo, but Adkins has some players who shoot too quickly sometimes.

Eventually, however, Bennett came through with some big threes.

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