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Eagles end Comets’ season
SoVaNow.com / February 04, 2013Because of William Fleming’s use of an ineligible player in its Jan. 4 win in Roanoke over Halifax County, the Comets were given a reprieve as far as earning a berth in this year’s Western Valley District boys’ basketball tournament.
But Franklin County’s Josh Blankenship would render another verdict with his shooting stroke from 3-point range.
The Eagles’ junior forward nailed five 3-pointers, including four in a row during a first-half shooting spree, and finished with a game-best 27 points as Franklin County put an end to Halifax’s 2012-13 campaign with an 85-61 league victory on Senior Night at Samuel M. Hawkins-Central Gymnasium.
Halifax’s final game of the season is its last game in the WVD also.
Because of approved statewide reclassification and district realignment, the 12-year old league will disband at the end of the school year. The Comets will join George Washington-Danville and Franklin County in the Piedmont District, while Patrick Henry moves to the River Ridge and William Fleming heads to the Blue Ridge.
From a historical standpoint, six of the seven schools that would compete in the WVD during its tenure would win the basketball championship, and Halifax was one of those schools - the Comets claimed the league’s second title. Five of those schools would advance to the Group AAA state tournament; the Comets; however, were not a part of that quintet.
With the win, its second this season over Halifax, Franklin County (2-5 in the WVD, 14-6 overall) locks up the No. 4 berth in the upcoming postseason tournament. The Eagles will face the winner of a one-game regular-season playoff game between William Fleming and GW Danville Thursday at Hawkins Gymnasium.
William Fleming school officials have said they plan an appeal to the Virginia High School League (VHSL). If one is granted, the playoff game is postponed and a Colonels-Eagles semifinal-round clash in Roanoke is etched in stone.
Also, William Fleming, a winner over cross-city league rival PH, will be the WVD champion and will receive the district No. 1 seed in the Northwest Regionals. With that comes a first-round bye and a quarterfinal-round home game.
Franklin County has one regular-season game left - a visit to PH Tuesday.
Because the Eagles have a tournament berth secured, they’ll have a chance to reach the regional tournament for the first time since 2007.
A year ago, the Comets denied the Eagles a berth in the tournament by conquering them in a tournament play-in game at Hawkins Gym. That victory would prove to be Halifax’s last on-court win in the WVD.
Halifax’s loss Friday overshadowed a team-best 21-point showing by Ta’vion Petty, who swished seven 3-pointers, including five in the second half.
Petty drained four treys in the fourth quarter, but his long-distance makes were cosmetic ‘ they had no effect on the outcome.
Blankenship, who netted a career-best 28 points in the Eagles’ 80-75 league win over the Comets in South Boston.
Hailfax (1-7 in the WVD, 8-13 overall) scored the game’s first three points and the count was even at 10 when Blankenship, who did not start began his assault with less than a minute to play in the opening quarter.
Blankenship swished a trey to break the stalemate and after a Devin Clements’ long-distance make, he drained another one at the close of the quarter to put the Eagles in front 19-10.
Blankenship’s two treys early in the second quarter and a basket by Ethan Adams would put Franklin County in front by 14 points, 27-13, and the spread would remain in double firgures for the rest of the game.
Blankenship hit his treys off an inbounds play, in transition and as a set part of the Eagles’ offense. His range was deep too he was not toeing the 3-point arc on his makes.
The count was 33-22 after a 3-pointer by Petty, but the Eagles would respond with a 6-0 run in which Blankenship and Max Harper would produce the points. The difference was 15, 41-26, at intermission.
Blankenship, with 17 points and Ray Witcher with 11, combined to outscore the Comets in the opening 16 minutes. Halifax did have eight players score in the first half; the Comets were paced by James Burden’s eight points and seven by Keyshawn Johnson.
Adams, Witcher and Blankenship offset Petty’s first 3-pointer of the second half with early third-quarter deuces as the Eagles ran their lead to 18 point, 47-29. A Blankenship free-throw made the score 50-33 and his final 3-point produced an 18-point, 55-37 cushion. Halifax’s deficit was 20 when he netted his 25th point of the night.
In the fourth quarter, the Comets hit five 3-pointers, got two field goals from Burden and three free throws from Thomas Brooks.
Witcher, who finished with 24 points for the Eagles, netted 11 points in the closing stanza and Adams (2), Harper (4), Clements (2), Blankenship (2) and Troy Lambert (5) also provided Franklin County with fourth-quarter points.
Clements, with 11, and Harper, with 10, finished in double figures for the Eagles, while Adams added eight and Lambert finished with five.
Burden tallied 18 points for the Comets. Johnson netted 11 and Brooks added six. Also scoring were Kevon Tucker and Dakota Delaware each with two and Trelanne Johnson with one.
Franklin County converted 30 field goals to Halifax’s 10. Both teams exceled from the free throw line: the Eagles were 15 of 18, the Comets were 14 of 16.
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