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Lady Comets season ends with loss to FC

South Boston News
DRIVE - Melyse Brown blasts through an opening in the FCHS defense during Saturday's season-ending Western Valley District tournament semifinal at Halifax County High School. (David Conner II photo) / February 20, 2010
Four games in five days definitely presented a major challenge, and the scrappy Franklin County girls’ varsity squad capitalized against Halifax County High School Saturday night.

The Eagles ended the Comets’ season, downing the very fatigued Comets, 70-58, in the Western Valley district semifinals. FCHS advanced to tonight’s WVD tournament finals.

The Halifax girls’ season is over.

FCHS will play at Fleming (17-5) for the WVD tournament title. Fleming is the regular season WVD champion and a no. 1 regional seed. FCHS (13-4) also has earned a no. 2 regional berth.

The Comets clearly ran out of gas in the third period, despite a gallant effort all around. HCHS, which finished 18-5 overall, made repeated fouls, impacted by the fatigue of a very demanding week.

The Comets had to play the previous Tuesday and Wednesday on the road, and Friday’s headline playoff game at a neutral site, Rocky Mount.

The Eagles’ previous game was last Tuesday at home, and FCHS clearly was the fresher team.

HCHS made a stirring fourth period comeback, but fell short.

Comet head coach Matt McCargo said, “It was a tough night. We knew coming back from William Fleming (on Friday in the playoff game for the WVD regular season title) after we laid all out, trying to get the win, and not have to let this be our focal point.

“The girls were tired. We tried to get all that we could. They gave it their best effort. We just didn’t have it at the end,” said McCargo. “We made mental mistakes that I don’t think we would have made if we had a little bit more rest,” said McCargo, who said he was exhausted, too.

HCHS finished with just 22 field goals at the end, including three 3-pointers. The Comets were really hurt by a 20-7 run by the Eagles in the pivotal third period, and then HCHS could not complete a comeback. FCHS led, 26-25, at the end of the first half and trailed 46-32, at the end of the third.

Halifax really struggled to get in sync in the third, finishing with only three field goals in eight minutes.

The Comets outscored the Eagles, 26-24, in the final quarter, but that was not enough.

FCHS got four players in double figures, helped by a huge advantage at the foul line. Brianna Taylor had 16 points and went 9-for-12 at the foul line. Desirae Jamison had 17, and went 7-for-8 at the line. Bareika Burwell added 15 and Shea Smith 12.

Smith had a triple double, with ten rebounds and ten assists. “I think our kids have shown tremendous heart over the last few weeks, and really have pulled together,” said FCHS coach Anne Crutchfield. “We have a combination of seasoned veterans, along with some really young players.”

And the Eagles are playing well in the postseason.

FCHS went 28-for-44 at the foul line, and found particular success in the final period. FCHS sank 14-of-22 of its foul shots in the final eight minutes.

The Comets were 11-for-17 from the foul line.

The Comets had good scoring balance, but not enough to overtake the Eagles. Melyse Brown led the Comets with 17, while Tiffany Wilson had ten. Jamilia Smith had seven, while Nia Brown had six.

Ashley Leachman and Whitney McCargo had five. Betts, hampered by foul trouble, had two, along with Shameika Canada and Dekeda Townes.

The teams battled from the outset, with neither team able to establish any real early momentum. This was also a physical game, with repeated held balls, bruising play inside with closely contested shots, and both teams dove to the floor with very commendable hustle.

FCHS led by one at the end of the first period, 11-10.

But Halifax was also hampered by early foul trouble to Betts, as she had to sit much of the first half. Destiny Betts picked up her second foul with 6:33 left in the first period, and this definitely hampered HCHS.

Crutchfield said, “She (Betts) is a quality player. We’ve struggled with teams that are bigger than us all year.”

Wilson drained a mid-range jumper with about six minutes left for a 12-11 Comet lead, but FCHS’ Boreika Burwell answered with a hook shot in the lane for a 13-12 Eagle advantage.

Halifax later scratched out an 18-14 lead after Jamilia Smith snared an offensive rebound and scored inside. Halifax extended its lead to 20-14 on two free throws by Melyse Brown with 3:45 left, but FCHS quickly battled back.

The Eagles led by one, 26-25, at the half, and took command in the third period.

HCHS got a minor break when the Eagles got hit with a technical for an illegal substitution with 6:49 left in the third, but little went right after that.

Halifax picked up one point on the technical, failing to score after regaining possession with 6:49 left in the third.

FCHS later took the lead, 29-28, with just over six minutes remaining. The Comets, showing signs of a pressing week, later made a turnover and allowed a layup by Erica Hancock with 4:49 left. FCHS led 33-30.

HCHS mostly fizzled on offense from there, while the Eagles got some better opportunities, capitalizing on Comet mistakes and turnovers.

The visitors eventually stretched the lead to 46-32 at the end of the third period.

HCHS spent most of the final period watching a parade of FCHS free throw shooters, as the Comet girls, clearly fatigued, kept fouling. HCHS drew within 12 on a Ashley Leachman 3-pointer, but the Eagles continued to go to the line.

FCHS led 54-43 with 5:23 left. Later, a layup by Latisha Martin made it 58-44, FCHS.

The Comets continued to battle, as Wilson got a steal and a layup to cut it to 61-48, and HCHS tried to turn up the defensive heat with its press.

The Comets managed to cut it to nine, 61-52, with 2:16 remaining after a layup by Leachman.. HCHS cut it to nine again later, but never had any real opportunities to cut significantly into the lead.

FCHS had a more favorable schedule last week, but Crutchfield said, “The weather has wreaked havoc on everybody, whether it’s been games suspended for long periods of time due to cancellations, or having to play three-four nights in a row. It’s one of those things you just have to adapt.”

Crutchfield conceded an advantage this week in overall preparations.

“Well, certainly, when you’ve had time to practice and prepare and you get a couple of days rest, it makes a huge difference, especially when you want to play a fast-paced game,” said Crutchfield.

Afterwards, McCargo tried to put the season into perspective, after there was an apparent misunderstanding after Friday’s loss to Fleming.

“The girls were emotional. Somehow, they were misled, had the understanding that was the end at William Fleming. I didn’t know coming back on the bus a lot of the girls thought it was all over,” said McCargo.

Somehow, some of the Comets got the idea Saturday night was a consolation game. In reality, HCHS was starting the postseason over. All they had to do was win on their home court Saturday, and the Comets would have made the regionals. (Fleming, the top seed, also defeated the no. 4 seed.)

“Once we explained (the situation), that did give them a little bit of life, a little bit of energy,” said McCargo.

“They played well to start the game, but we made mental mistakes,” said McCargo.

HCHS played well but later made mental mistakes, with fatigue setting in.

Furthermore, Halifax was hampered by injuries. Stephanie Carr was slowed by back problems, and Chelse Bowman also had back problems. HCHS had planned to use Bowman some. Betts also plays better when she’s rested, but that opportunity was not there.

The early fouls by Betts also hurt. McCargo suggested she needs more discipline to avoid early foul problems.

“We told her they were going to come at her and get her in foul trouble. She’s got to move her feet, get in that path, and be upright and in a defensive position. She gets there late, and there’s nothing we can do but work on it. She has to go out and do it,” said McCargo.

HCHS had a sparkling final record, including a 7-1 mark before Friday’s playoff.

“We had a great season. We accomplished a lot of our goals. We wanted to put a banner on the wall,” said McCargo. “Most of the goals we got accomplished, except getting to the regionals.

“Four seniors won’t be a part of that when it happens. Our goals with these girls was to build the program and that started nine years ago,” said McCargo.

McCargo said the girls’ varsity program is headed in the right direction.

“We’re still not where we want to be.

“We have to have our jayvee team winning. We have to have our middle school winning and playing against competition. We have to have our girls playing during the summer. We have to have our administration supporting us wholeheartedly, just like Franklin County. We have to have the cheerleaders. We have to have the bus department working with us so we don’t have the scheduling problem.

“It’s a lot of things we need to fix before we can get the program where I think it needs to be,” said McCargo.

At the end, Wilson said, “I just think if we had done our job in the beginning of the season better than now, we would have made it further. But as a team, we played really good. We did our best, that’s all we can do.

“I’m proud of myself and my team,” said Wilson.

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