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Season Ends For Comets

The sweetest season in more than a quarter century for the Comets varsity girls basketball team ended on a sour note Saturday with a 70-58 loss at home to Franklin County in the semifinals of the Western Valley District Tournament.

Melyse Brown scored 17 points and Tiffany Wilson added 10 for Halifax County (7-1 WVD, 18-5), which lost a chance for the regular season title and a home game in the Northwest Region Tournament with a 59-52 setback to William Fleming the night before at Franklin County High School.

Jamilia Smith added seven, Nia Brown six, Ashley Leachman and Whitney McCargo five apiece, and Stephanie Carr, Shameika Canada and Dekeda Townes two points each for Halifax County, which finished the season with an 18-5 record.

Four players finished in double figures for Franklin County, Brianna Taylor with 17, Desirae Jamison with 16, Bareika Burwell with 15 and Shea Smith with 12 points for the Eagles, who play William Fleming tonight for the tournament title.

Four games in five days last week took the ultimate toll on his team, according to Comets coach Matthew McCargo.

“It was a tough night.  We were coming back from William Fleming where we laid it all on the line and didn’t want tonight’s game to be the focal point,” said McCargo.

“The girls were tired and gave their best effort but didn’t have it in the end.  They made mental mistakes I think they wouldn’t have made if we had a little more rest since last night.

“I know the girls are tired because I’m exhausted and I didn’t run up and down the floor one single time.”

The game was close throughout the first two and a half quarters before fatigue and fouls began to take their toll.

Nia Brown scored four of her six points in the opening quarter where the lead changed hands three times before the Eagles took an 11-10 advantage heading into the second quarter.

Melyse Brown and Jamilia Smith each hit 3-point plays, and Canada and Wilson added buckets in the second quarter which saw the lead change hands six more times before a Smith bucket right before the buzzer gave the Eagles a 26-25 lead at halftime.

The game got away from Halifax County in the third quarter after a Betts field goal gave her team its final lead at 27-26.

A 20-5 run the rest of the quarter, with only a made foul shot by Melyse Brown and baskets from McCargo and Nia Brown to interrupt it, gave the Eagles a 46-32 bulge with a quarter remaining.

With the Comets scrambling to get back into the game, Franklin County hit 14 of 23 free throw attempts in the final quarter, with Burwell adding three baskets and Tish Martin and Brianna Taylor one apiece.

Halifax County, which got 3-pointers from Melyse Brown, Leachman and McCargo in the final period, got as close as 61-52 after a Leachman steal and basket with 2:16 remaining, but drew no closer down the stretch.

It was an emotional and disappointing end to a season that left the Comets and seniors McCargo, Nia Brown, Wilson and Miyisha Younger just short of their ultimate goals of a district championship and regional berth.

“Somehow the girls were misled and thought that was the end at William Fleming,” said McCargo.

“I didn’t know coming back on the bus that a lot of the girls thought it was all over and questioned if there was a game today, thinking it was a consolation game.

“Once we explained everything, they did get a little life and a little energy, and they played well to start the game.

“But, we made mental mistakes and it showed in the third quarter.

“Stephanie Carr gave a valiant effort although she was hurt.  Chelese Bowman didn’t play at all because of back problems, and we had planned to use her some.”

Betts sat for extended periods of time after two early fouls and that played into Franklin County’s game plan, McCargo added.

“Destiny plays well when she’s rested and she gets herself into trouble by not being disciplined,” explained McCargo.

“We told her Franklin County would come right at her to get her into foul trouble, and that’s what happened.”

McCargo looked past the disappointment of the last two nights to reflect on a season full of accomplishments.

“We had a great season and accomplished a lot of our goals except for getting to the regionals, and four seniors won’t be a part of it when that happens, he said with regret.

Her team took full advantage of Betts’ absence to get the better of play inside the post area, according to Franklin County coach Ann Crutchfield.

“She (Betts) is a quality player and we’ve struggled with teams with taller players all year.

“All four district losses have been to teams we don’t match up well with size-wise, so it’s real important for us to level the playing field with teams taller than us and tonight we did,” she said.

“I just think our kids have shown tremendous heart the past few weeks and have really pulled together.  We have a combination of some seasoned veterans and some really young players.  We started a freshman tonight and a sophomore a couple of times before.

“I think when you want to peak and play your best basketball is in the post season and that’s where my kids are right now.

“Once you reach post season, everyone is 0-0, and I told the kids that after losing to Halifax a second time.”

A tough December schedule helps prepare her team for a succession of games in February, but Crutchfield noted the weather delays have affected everyone.

“We schedule 11 games in December and I feel it plays an important part in getting us ready for post season play where you play night after night, but the weather has wreaked havoc on everybody,” she said.

“It’s one of those things, but certainly when you’ve had time to practice and prepare and get a couple of days rest between games it makes a huge difference, particularly in a fast-paced game.”