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Fast Start Holds Up For Lady Comets

A 22-6 run in the first quarter proved to be the difference Wednesday as the Comets varsity girls basketball team won its second straight HCHS Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament championship with a 50-37 win over Person High School.

The Comets put two players in double figures, with Destiny Betts scoring seven of her game-high 15 points and Whitney McCargo seven of her 12 in the opening quarter, as Halifax built the 16-point lead.

It was 33-16 at halftime, but the Rockets didn’t go quietly, outscoring the Comets 11-5 in the third quarter and getting as close as nine points before Halifax pulled away to the final margin.

Nia Brown finished with six points, Stephanie Carr with five points, including a crucial 3-pointer after Person had cut its deficit to 10 points early in the final period.

Melyse Brown, Tiffany Wilson, and Shameika Canada finished with four points apiece for Halifax (6-1), which reached the finals with a 53-16 blowout of Bluestone.

Akiri Sampson had a team-high 14 points for Person (4-7), 10 in the third quarter, while Akiri Outlaw had seven, all in the final period, and Arneeque Smith six points, all in the first quarter for the Rockets, who reached the title game with a 62-47 thumping of Gretna.

Comets coach Matthew McCargo knew a win against cross-border rival Person in the title game would probably not come easy.

“We had to work for it, and the bad part about it is we didn’t get a chance to play everybody in the championship game like we wanted to.

“Sometimes you get lucky and get a chance to play everybody, but you have to do what you have to in order to win the game.

“The fact is the girls played hard and didn’t play the perfect game all the way through, but we played well in spurts.

“The first one was in the first quarter when we got out to a lead and took them out of what they wanted to do, and we got into synch.

They made a run in the second half and cut it to nine, and we settled down, hit some big shots and played some solid defense to hold them off.”

Melyse Brown scored all her four points in the first quarter, including the game’s first bucket off the tip, and Wilson and Canada added baskets to help the Comets take the 22-6 lead.

Person got as close as 25-16 after a Sampson bucket midway through the second quarter, but Betts hit two straight field goals, McCargo another and Betts the final points of the half at the buzzer while falling backwards in the lane to make it 33-16.

Sampson hit a 3-pointer and added a bucket after a steal to pull Person to within 34-24 in the third quarter, and Brittany Burton hit one of two from the line to close the gap to 38-28 early in the fourth quarter, but the Comets responded.

Carr hit a big 3-pointer and Wilson a bucket to hike the lead to 43-28.  It was 47-33 in favor of the Comets with 3:40 remaining and 47-35 at the 1:42 mark, before a McCargo 3-point play off a driving layup made it 50-35 with time winding down.

Outlaw banked a shot home at the buzzer for the final margin.

Person coach Tracy Allen said the early deficit proved to be too much for her team to overcome.

“What I saw was that we had a hard first quarter and we started real slow, our defense wasn’t as active as it needed to be, and we appeared to be moving in slow motion,” Allen said.

“We got ourselves in such a deep hole that once we started picking ourselves up it was very hard to get totally back in it.

“Our offense wasn’t in synch most of the night, but we got some steals and got back in the game.

“Early on, I could see some of the girls hang their heads a little and I had to get them to snap out of it.

“They have a tendency to get down on themselves, and I have to encourage them to continue to play.  It always starts on defense and they did pick it up after halftime.”

Halifax got a lot of good looks inside in the first half, because her team wasn’t boxing out the way it was supposed to, Allen continued.

“That kind of slowed us down, but you can’t fault the effort.

“We have some seniors on our team, so a lot of the mistakes shouldn’t have happened, but it’s always a battle with Halifax,” added Allen, whose team plays Halifax again on Tuesday at Comets Gym.

“Coach Allen said it best, it’s a rivalry, not as hotly contested as GW is for us perhaps, but it’s still a cross border rivalry,” McCargo noted.

“The girls see each other in the summer, so we both want to win, and each time we play both teams seem to step it up a notch and play at a higher level.”

Winning the HCHS Holiday Classic championship is always one of the goals his team has before each season, and achieving it twice in a row is doubly satisfying, McCargo noted.

“The key this year was our poise and veteran leadership,” he said.

“This team has definitely matured and that’s what we need to have.  The better we stick to our plan the farther we’ll go and the more successful our season will be.

“I think the first one (Holiday Classic championship) was definitely sweeter, but having this one is like having double the chocolate.

“It’s sweet to come back and win the second one and we’d like to come back next year for another helping.”