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Everything fell into place for GW win

SoVaNow.com / February 10, 2014
Halifax County High School basketball players consistently made the plays they needed and kept their poise during a challenging final stretch. And playing at home, in front of a large crowd, certainly helped the Comets’ cause. Blue Heaven proved to be a high-octane cauldron for the GW Eagles Thursday night.

There were some behind the scene developments that made a difference in this 49-48 Comet win.

Let’s start with guard Keyshawn Johnson, who wears no. 10 for HCHS. K. Johnson left during last Monday’s loss to GW, and did not play against Patrick County. But was able to return Thursday to help run the Comet offense.

Johnson credited the coaching staff and the trainer, Leslie Hodge, with helping him be able to play in this headliner.

K. Johnson said his back felt better. He gained some confidence early with an offensive surge. He sank two of the four 3s HCHS had in the first period. Now, HCHS can build on this win.

KEY FREE: Will Miller sank the game-winning free throw, after playing well on both ends of the court. Miller is improving as a rebounder, and the heady sophomore does some things - like helping to save possessions - that don’t show up in the box scores.

Miller, who hit one of the four 3-pointers HCHS had, finished with six points. He only had one trip to the foul line, which came with 7.2 seconds remaining in the game.

Miller missed the first free throw, but sank the second. HCHS made a final defensive stand to preserve a memorable win over the Eagles.

Right before the first attempt, Miller had to deal with the mental aspect of basketball.

“I would say I was pretty nervous, tried to calm down a little bit. Then (he concentrated on) not coming up short, and not airballing it, following through all the way. It (the first attempt) hit the back of the rim. I knew I had to shoot it a little ... bit softer (on the second free throw).

“I knew it wasn’t over, because the Franklin County game was just like that. GW had seven seconds... We had to come down and get a stop. And their guy almost made it, (the shot) hit the front of the rim. We came out with the win,” said Miller, who snagged the final rebound.

Miller delivered a strong game in all aspects of basketball, including helping beat the GW press.

Miller had a tough assignment on GW’s presence down low.

“I tried to play good defense on the GW big man (JaMarcus Hairston), trying to front him, not letting him get a lot of possessions, boxing him out,” said Miller. “He’s a lot bigger than me.”

Comet coach Larry Epperly said, “It’s just a toughness and will. Anybody who saw our guys play tonight has got to have a place in their heart for them. They do play their hearts out.”

GW REBOUNDS: The Eagles downed Franklin County, 62-52, on Friday night to finish 18-3 and 13-1 in the Piedmont district. GW will host Bassett in the first round of the Piedmont district tournament.

Once the Piedmont tournament ends, the real deal starts with Conference 16 play for the Comets.

GW and FCHS are not in the same conference or region with HCHS, so the Comets will see neither team again after this week.

BOYS HEADED TO MEET FC: Halifax has the no. 1 seed in the Conference 16 action locked up.

Nevertheless, the Comets, who finished 10-4 in the Piedmont district, are the no. 3 seed in the district tournament. If the Comets win tonight, they will meet either GW-Danville or Bassett Tuesday. The next round is at Bassett.

GW is the no. 1 seed in the higher classification bracket, with its 13-1 district mark. GW is grouped with Bassett, HCHS and Franklin County. One of those teams moves on to play Friday.

If the Comets advance to Friday’s district tournament finals, also at Bassett, they would meet the winner coming out of the lower classification bracket. That group includes Patrick County, Martinsville, Tunstall or Magna Vista.

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