- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Doug Ford
With games against Person High School and William Fleming to end the week, the Comets varsity basketball team has little time to dwell on its first loss of the season, a 41-34 setback Monday at Liberty Christian Academy. Perhaps it’s best that they don’t after a lackluster game that saw Halifax County lose a six-point lead early in the fourth quarter and eventually the game against a team that makes each possession a priority.
Halifax did not respond well to that challenge, with turnovers at crucial times, lack of rebounding and poor free throw shooting all contributing to the loss.
“You know when you miss free throws and don’t rebound on the road, you’re going to lose,” said Comets coach Lynn Ramage.
“We knew coming in about LCA and if we make free throws and layups we win this game.”
Halifax faced an opponent in LCA with a “Princeton-style” offense that uses high screens and back door cuts to its advantage while running a deliberate offense.
Liberty led for most of the first half after baskets by the Comets’ Rob Jackson and Keon Gutrich early in the first quarter.
Liberty’s Mike Rocco hit a 3-pointer to give his team a 7-4 lead, and Ethan Layer hit another trey to give the Bulldogs a 10-5 advantage after one quarter, and the lead grew to 18-10 with two minutes remaining in the half after a 3-pointer by Desmond Rice.
By that point, Halifax had only a 3-pointer from Lemal Adams and a follow basket from Kelvin Davis to show for its second-quarter efforts, but Kendell Adams hit two free throws and Demetre Faulkner a 3-pointer to help Halifax pull to within 20-15 at halftime.
The Comets went on a 12-3 run in the third quarter to grab a 27-23 lead, and still held a 30-25 advantage with a quarter remaining.
Deshon Dabbs, scoreless in the first half, hit a 3-pointer and two field goals in the third-quarter surge, while Jackson added a pair of baskets, and the lead grew to 32-26 early in the fourth quarter when Dabbs followed his own miss.
Halifax would only score two points the rest of the way, on a putback by Kejuan Mayo with 3:30 remaining, while Liberty took advantage of Comets turnovers and missed opportunities at the charity stripe to pull ahead.
Baskets by DeQuan Gardener and Rocco following Halifax turnovers and two of three foul shots by Layer after being fouled on a 3-point shot tied the score at 32-32 and Gardener knocked down three foul shots after being fouled on a 3-point shot to give his team the lead for good at 35-34 with less than two minutes remaining.
Dabbs misfired on two foul shots and his 3-pointer rattled in and out with a minute remaining, and Deshaun Clark missed two more at the line before Rocco hit two foul shots for a 39-34 lead with less than 20 seconds left in the game.
Layer and Micah Nissley each hit one of two from the line in the final seconds for the final points of the game.
“You hear coaches say it all the time, but my kids didn’t quit,” said Liberty coach John Patterson.
“You have to have so much poise against a team like that (Halifax) with the amount of pressure they put on you, and it comes down to holding your composure and hanging around until you get a shot and when that comes you execute your play.
“The foul shots were big, but we told the kids to hang around and not get knocked out.
“We got a chance, made a few foul shots and were smart with the ball late.”
His team’s deliberate offensive style may not be fun to watch at times or fun for his players, but it’s the style that gives his team the best chance to win, Patterson continued.
“We have to play this way, and I grant it’s not a lot of fun to play this way for the kids, but they do what I ask them to do and I’m proud of them for that.”
With Tuesday’s rematch with Person High School and Friday’s district opener at home with William Fleming, the Comets need to move ahead, Ramage noted.
“We wanted to see some people play tonight, so we substituted whole-heartedly, and the second unit played a lot, so I think some good came out of this,” he explained.
“It’s tough to be undefeated for the whole year and we have a game tomorrow (Person), so we’ll come focused tomorrow.
“We’ll see how bad we want to play, and we’ll find out what we’re all about.
“The kids should be okay but you have to come to play every night, and there are no excuses, we had a bad game.
“We’re 7-1 and we’ll take it.”