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Comets boys take a step forward despite loss

After three straight lackluster showings, the Halifax County High School varsity boys basketball team needed something positive to happen Wednesday night when it faced neighboring border rival Person (N.C.) High School in Roxboro, N.C.  The Comets did make some positive things happen, but they could not shoot down the Rockets.

Person (N.C.) High School edged the Comets 56-49, but not before withstanding a fourth-quarter rally that saw the Comets cut a 14-point deficit down to four points with just over a minute to play and create an opportunity to possibly steal a win.

“In a lot of ways we took a step forward,” said Comets Head Coach Larry Epperly.

“The effort was there. If you keep playing hard, things will happen, and that’s what we did. We made a couple of plays out of effort plays.”

The Comets never led, and went four and a half minutes at the start of the game without scoring. They trailed 10-0 before getting their first basket, and trailed 16-6 at the end of the first quarter.

After trailing by as many as 12 points in the second quarter, the Comets cut their deficit to nine points at 24-15 at halftime thanks to a late surge by Freddie Edmunds, who led the Comets in scoring with 21 points.

Halifax County High School opened the second half with a 5-0 run that cut their deficit to four points. But, the Rockets’ Tyrone Outlaw, who scored a game-high 22 points, squelched it with a three-point basket. Halifax County rallied to make a second run at the Rockets midway through the third quarter, with a layup from Shaquille Ford cutting the Rockets’ lead to three points at 31-28. Person High School righted itself and extended its lead back to nine points at 42-33 at the end of the third quarter.

Person High School extended its lead to 14 points at 48-34 with 5:31 left in the game. At that juncture, it appeared the Comets were all but out of the game.

Seven unanswered Comets points that came from a basket from Edmunds, a three-point shot from Ford Bradshaw and a basket from Dakota Delaware allowed the Comets to cut their deficit to seven points with 3:45 left in the game.

The Comets pulled to within four points when Edmunds sank a pair of free throws with 1:12 left in the contest. Then, forced to foul Rockets players in an effort to stop the clock, the Comets were unable to get the quick fouls they needed. In the waning seconds, a turnover and a pair of missed shots stymied the Comets’ late bid.

“We didn’t want to foul Outlaw because he is their best free throw shooter,” Epperly explained.

“They (Person High School) put the ball in his hands and that’s a dilemma. We tried going to a zone trap and it wasn’t very good. We were all over the place, so we had to get out of that.”

Epperly took the blame for some of the Comets struggles down the stretch.

“A lot of it is bad coaching because in college I’ve been used to playing with a shot clock, and you know you’re going to get the ball back,” explained Epperly.

“When you have no shot clock you’d better have something for them. It’s a lot my fault, too because we don’t have a lot for that kind of situation right now.”

Person High School Head Coach Charles Dacas said he was not surprised by the Comets’ late bid.

“They really stepped up their defensive intensity, and they made some plays and hit some shots,” Dacas noted.

“They’re a good ballclub. They’re not going to lie down and quit for anybody, especially us. They’re well coached. Their coach did a good job at halftime making adjustments.”