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Comets girls advance to NW Region semifinals

Comets’ senior guard Melyse Brown didn’t want to come off the floor Tuesday at home against Riverbend in the first round of the Northwest Regional Basketball Tournament, not even after committing her fifth foul with two minutes left to play and the Comets holding a 62-52 lead.

As things turned out it didn’t matter, as the Lady Comets advanced to the second round of the regional tournament with a 65-54 victory over Riverbend, earning a berth in the regional semifinals Friday against either Forest Park or Heritage-Leesburg.

Halifax put four players in double figures against the Lady Bears, with Destiny Betts leading the way with 18 points.  Shameika Canada had 17, Brown 14 and Jamilia Smith 11 points for Halifax, while Stephanie Carr and Dekeda Townes chipped in two points apiece and Ashley Leachman one at the foul line.

Halifax hit 17 of 32 free throw opportunities, but more importantly eight of 12 in the final quarter to help seal the win.

“This is not going to be the last game for the Lady Comets, said Brown,” who hit two buckets and four of four from the line in the fourth quarter before fouling out.

“When we played PH (Patrick Henry) we got down when they got up, and we knew we couldn’t do that today. If we lose we go home.

“We weren’t ready to stop playing tonight.  We had to be disciplined enough to play defense and not foul.”

Halifax led by as many as four points early, but the Bears’ Ashley Lambert scored four of her team-high 17 points the rest of the quarter to give Riverbend a 17-14 lead.

Another Lambert bucket stretched her team’s lead to 23-18 early in the second quarter, but a Betts basket and three of four from the line from Canada helped Halifax gain a 27-25 lead at halftime.

The Comets’ pressure defense began to pay dividends in the third quarter, forcing eight of the Bears’ 19 turnovers, and the Comets, behind 10 points from Betts, led 47-41 with a quarter remaining.

Riverbend pulled to within 47-43 early in the fourth quarter on two Lambert foul shots, but Brown answered with two of her own and a basket off a steal to give Halifax a 51-43 lead.

Riverbend pulled to within five points once down the stretch, but Halifax handled the Bears’ pressure to get easy looks at the basket with Smith scoring five points in addition to Brown’s eight, Canada’s four and Carr’s one point at the foul line.

Canada and Carr said the Comets had worked too hard all season to see it come to an end Tuesday.

“It took an extra push, in practice coach told me what to do and I got it done,” said Canada.

“It took us a great deal of time to do this, but coach always said this would be our year.”

Carr, the point guard for offense and defense, said the first regional win in over 20 years “felt great.”

It’s all a team effort, Carr said, adding the team simply executes what coach Matthew McCargo teaches in practice.

“We’re still ready to play again,” said Carr.

McCargo said the keys to the win were execution and intensity, something that didn’t happen against Patrick Henry.

“We didn’t’ do anything any differently than we had before,” he noted.

“It’s just stepping up our intensity in the post season and really getting after it, to be focused and disciplined.

“By far, this was our best ball game in terms of intensity, doing what we’re supposed to do, stepping up to the line and making our free throws when we had to have them and doing the fundamentals and the little things we had to do.”

“They just put it all together,” McCargo continued. “The crowd is very important to them, and I think they wanted to give the crowd something to root for and talk about after the game.

“We’re living in a moment we want to last forever and we want to keep going as long as we can.”

It’s only going to get harder for the Comets in the next rounds, and his team realizes that, McCargo pointed out.

“We may have to leave Blue Heaven and this big fan base, but we’re ready and still excited about the direction we’re going, to be alive and able to play.”