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Slow start dooms Comets / February 22, 2018

The Halifax County High School varsity boys’ basketball team saw its season end Monday night after Patrick Henry-Roanoke bounced the Comets from the postseason, 53-37, on the road.

Halifax fell victim to an athletic squad that capitalized on second chance points and ball security issues. The Comets also had a very slow start offensively and never overcame an early scoring drought.

The Comets finished 10-15 after the opening round loss in Class 5 Region D South sub-regional tournament play in Roanoke.

The key statistic from this game was second chance points. Patrick Henry finished with a 15-2 edge here, with David Medley connecting on the lone Comet stickback.

Eight Comets got into the scoring column, led by Dashon Louden with 13. Tyree Dunkley had seven and Michael Spraggins had six.

Patrick Henry had nine players scoring, led by Dayshawn Caldwell with 10 points. Tee Bryan scored seven, along with Noah Woody. Nicholas Logan and Dawson Hicks had five apiece and Mitchell Burns had four.

Patrick Henry had a decent night at the foul line, sinking 10-of-15 free throws. Halifax went 12-of-19 from the line.

“Tough year for us,” said coach Sterling Williams. “(The) record really didn’t indicate the type of basketball team we were. Felt like we had some games we kind of gave away.

“Tonight, we came out flat and dug ourselves a hole. Just couldn’t get back out of it,” said Williams.

Williams said the Comets could not get open early and weren’t helping enough off screens to find open spaces. Halifax also got hurt with its inability to keep Patrick Henry out of the lane, leading to easy layups. Second chance points also hurt.

“We just didn’t do the things we needed to do offensively,” said Williams.

Patrick Henry’s coach Jack Esworthy continued another playoff run.

Esworthy had to deal with the Comets without perhaps its most consistent scorer, junior John Stockstill, who is out with injury. Patrick Henry might have him back for the second round.

Patrick Henry has had a variety of players make contributions, and Caldwell had a career high.

“He’s come a long way,” said Esworthy, noting Caldwell is a polite, very coachable player.

Second chance points were key.

“Especially for them, because they’re not a great shooting team. I thought we did a great job cleaning up their misses,” said Esworthy.

Esworthy had tape of the GW win by Halifax, and he warned his players the Comets could be relentless on the boards. He wanted to avoid allowing Halifax to get second chance points and the ability to generate momentum there.

The press also hampered Halifax with a 1-3-1 halfcourt trap. Esworthy said the press and trap scheme works well against even good ballhandling teams.

Esworthy saidpress helped the Pats expand the lead into double digits.

Halifax really struggled coming out of the gate and never found an effective offensive rhythm.

The teams started slowly, and Spraggins completed a three-point play for a 6-5 Comet lead with 3:02 left in the first period.

But Patrick Henry’s Woody worked inside on the first of many second shot opportunities for a 7-6 PH lead.

Patrick Henry later extended its lead to 13-8 at the end of the first period on a nifty dribble drive and layup Caldwell.

The Patriots extended their lead in the second period as Halifax floundered offensively. Burns sank an easy basket down low and PH led 17-10 at the 6:10 mark.

Halifax later drew within four, at 19-15, on one of two free throws by Spraggins, but Dawson Hicks later extended the Pats lead to 22-15 on solid ball movement.

Woody later had a strong move inside and a three-point play to lift PH to a 26-15 lead. And Nicholas Logan lofted a three-pointer right before the halftime horn for a 29-17 PH advantage at intermission.

Patrick Henry also used its press defense in the second quarter and rattled the Comets. The Patriots took a ten-point lead - 25-15 - with 1:55 left on an effective spin move by Woody.

By now, it was clear Halifax was really cold offensively, and the Comets had created a deficit too large to recover from. Still, Halifax played reasonably well in the third period, although the score did not reflect the effort.

Halifax had some positive moments and stayed within reach of the Pats, trailing 38-26 at the end of the third period.

But the Pats also capitalized on sharp shooting at times from 3-point range, as Logan launched a three-pointer with 5:53 left in the game for a 44-28 lead.

Patrick Henry brought home the first round regional win from there.

PH had trouble with the Patriot press and finished with 18 turnovers, compared to 12 for the home team.

The Comets also missed 26 shots and connected on just one 3-pointer, from Tyree Dunkley in the final period.

PH drained four 3s.

The Patriots moved on to second round regional action at Harrisonburg.

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