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Lady Comets fall to Fleming in playoff game / February 20, 2010
Special to the News & Record

ROCKY MOUNT, Va. – To the delight of her head coach, William Fleming’s Salesse Stovall lived on the free-throw line Friday night at Samuel M. Hawkins-Central Gymnasium.

Stovall, a senior and Marshall (W.Va.) University signee, made only three field goals, but she was 16 of 19 from the line. Her game-best 22 points guided the Colonels to the 2010 Western Valley District girls’ basketball championship with a 59-52 triumph over Halifax County High School in a neutral-site playoff game between the two rivals.

Stovall attempted all of her free throws in a second half in which the Colonels only converted five field goals.

With the win, its second this season over Halifax, William Fleming (16-5) earns the No. 1 seed for the WVD’s postseason tournament and if there is a rematch between the Colonels and the Comets, it would take place Monday night on William Fleming’s home hardwood.

More importantly, the Colonels are guaranteed a berth in the Northwest Region and as the WVD’s No. 1 region seed, they will open that tournament at home in the quarterfinals against Cardinal District runner-up Osbourn Park.

The Comets (18-4), who were seeking to secure their first regional berth since 1988, have immediate work to do if they hope to extend their season past WVD postseason play.

Halifax, which saw a nine-game winning streak stopped with the loss, must defeat No. 3 seed Franklin County in Saturday night’s tournament semifinals at home to continue what has been a stellar campaign to this point.

Halifax would convert 23 field goals to William Fleming’s 13, but the Colonels were 31 of 41 from the free-throw line.

Fatigue factored into the Comets’ performance as Halifax was playing its third game in four nights and needed to win the two previous games, both of which were on the road, to force Friday’s playoff encounter.

“We had the two earlier games this week and we had to extend ourselves in those games,’’ Halifax head coach Matt McCargo said. “William Fleming came with pressure all night because they knew we were fatigued. It was a smart move on their part.

“What can you do. You’ve got to play the schedule that they put in front of us,’’ McCargo said. “...It is what it is...It’s a tough situation for us.’’

The Comets failed to convert numerous lay-ups, most notably in a second quarter in which the two teams combined for 11 points, and they were 5 of 16 from the free throw line.

“That hurt us,’’ McCargo said. “We missed so many lay-ups and we shot ourselves in the foot.’’

Also a series of critical, fourth-quarter turnovers against pressure defense employed by the Colonels plagued the Comets.

William Fleming, on the other hand, had not played since defeating George Washington (GW) Danville in a WVD matinee Saturday, Feb. 13 – the Colonels’ regular-season finale.

“I think we had a little more energy,’’ Colonels coach Champ Hubbard said. “But every day we practice like it’s a game to us so we try to put as much energy into a two-hour (practice) as we do into two hours out here on the floor. Hard practices are good.’’

Stovall scored as many points in the fourth quarter (17) as Halifax netted as a team. She was 15 of 17 from the line and her makes touched nothing but net.

“(Salesse) had a real tough game (at the line) against Oakton and I got on her for missing so many free throws,’’ Hubbard said. “She’s worked hard on them. She stepped it up tonight so much so that I selected her to shoot the technical foul free throws (in the fourth quarter) and I would never do that.’’

Stovall made 7 of 8 free throws in the first three minutes of the final period as the Colonels turned a two-point, 36-34, deficit into a five-point, 41-36, edge.

“In practice, we run sprint until we’re tired, then we shoot free throws,’’ Stovall said. “If you practice them enough and work on them enough, you’ll hit them in a game.

“Tonight, I was in a rhythm,’’ said Stovall, who completed a double- double with 14 rebounds.

A basket by Aureon Bannister kept the spread at five points, but Halifax battled back and, courtesy of buckets by Tiffany Wilson and Melyse Brown, the Comets pulled to within a point, 43-42.

William Fleming responded with a 10-1 run, one that was capped by two Stovall free throws with 1:49 left.

During that stretch, Stovall converted a three-point play and freshman post player Erika Coleman collected the Colonels’ last basket from the field.

Trailing 53-43, the Comets got a basket from Destiny Betts and a 3- pointer from Ashley Leachman to close to within six, 54-48, with 1:01 showing.

William Fleming secured the win by making 5 of 6 free throws in the waning seconds to offset Halifax baskets by Jamilia Smith and Betts. Tiasia McGeorge, Ryjae Anderson and Stovall supplied the free-throw makes for the Colonels.

Halifax led by five points on two occasions (10-5 and 16-11) in the first quarter, but a 7-0 William Fleming run at the end of the stanza enabled the Colonels to rally and take the lead.

That advantage would reach a high of five points, 19 in the second stanza.

Trailing by five, 26-21, at the start of the third quarter, Halifax went on an 8-0 tear, one in which Wilson and Whitney McCargo combined to produce all the points.

A 29-26 Comets’ edge would later reach five points, 35-30 with 1:03 left after baskets by Shameika Canada, Betts and McCargo.

William Fleming cut that gap to one by the end of the period. The key play came when Bannister corralled a rebound off of a Coleman free- throw miss to make the count 35-34.

Coleman finished with 12 points and Anderson tallied 10.

Betts paced the Comets with 12 points and McCargo netted 10.

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