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Comets boys focus on getting better

Winning next week’s 18th Annual Halifax County High School Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament ranks right at the top of the agenda of Comets Head Coach Larry Epperly. But, winning the tournament isn’t the most important thing on Epperly’s mind. What is paramount on Epperly’s mind is simply having the team play better basketball in next week’s tournament.

“We’d like to win the tournament, but playing better is more important for us right now,” explained Epperly.

“There is a game on Tuesday and a game on Wednesday. I take each game one at a time. Winning the tournament would be great. But, right now, what I’m looking for is just getting the team to play better.”

The Comets head into Tuesday night’s opening-round Holiday Classic contest against the Pamlico County (N.C.) High School Hurricanes with a 1-5 slate, and looking to snap a five game losing streak that includes a pair of losses to Person (N.C.) High School, one of the three other teams that will be competing in next week’s tournament.

Despite the fact that the Comets lost to Person (N.C.) High School 56-49 Wednesday night in Roxboro, N.C., there were some positives for the team to build on.

“I think in a lot of ways we took a step forward,” Epperly noted.

“I told the kids the only thing that is important now is to win the next one. We’ve just got to get focused and work hard in practice and try to win the next one.”

While the Holiday Classic is the next challenge for the Comets, Epperly is also concerned with the big picture – that is how ready his team will be to begin Western Valley District play.

The Comets will open Western Valley District play immediately after the Holiday Classic, facing archrival GW here on Tues. Jan. 3 in their district opener, and facing William Fleming High School here on Fri. Jan. 6 to cap the opening week of district action.

Epperly says his Comets players need a good shot of confidence heading into the start of district play. A good outing in the Holiday Classic could provide that.

“Winning (the Holiday Classic) certainly would give us a shot in the arm, and we need something like that,” he pointed out.

“We need something to get us going and give us a lot of confidence.”

Next week’s Holiday Classic Tournament gives Epperly and the Comets an opportunity to address the issue of overall team improvement, while, at the same time, working to get ready for the start of district play.

“Getting ourselves ready for that January drive is one of the importances of the tournament,” Epperly pointed out.

“We need to start playing better. We’ve talked about that we need to take care of the ball and not turn it over, that we need to rebound better and that we need to get back in transition to prevent easy baskets.

“Those things need to be done before you get into district play,” Epperly continued.

“What happens is that when you’re playing two or three games a week practice time dwindles. If you don’t have things in place by January, I don’t know that you are going to have a chance to get it.”

The Comets’ coach emphasizes that the team is still working, still growing and taking steps forward as the players continuing to learn to grasp Epperly’s system and expectations.

“We’re a work in progress,” Epperly pointed out.

“We still have kids that are trying to learn the system and what we want. We’re still turning the ball over, still not rebounding the way we need to and really not defending the way we need to. But, it’s a learning process, and we’re hoping the light switch is going to come on soon.”

Epperly says he will continue to look at different combinations of players on the floor throughout the tournament as he continues to try to find the best and most productive combination.

“We’re going to continue to shift our lineup until we find the kids that play well together,” he said.

“I know I’m learning as much as anybody. I’m trying to figure out the personalities, trying to find who plays well together, what skills they have and what positions they’re best suited for.

“It’s going to take time,” he continued.

“It’s not a quick fix. We take it day-by-day and hopefully get improvement each day. Hopefully, by the time we get to our first district game we will be better than we are right now.”