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Comets ready for opener

“We’re ready now to get on with it.”

Those were the words Monday from Halifax County High School Varsity Boys Basketball Coach Larry Epperly in the wake of the Comets’ successful pre-season scrimmages Saturday against defending state champion Henrico High School and Cosby High School, a noted contender in the Richmond area.

Halifax County High School faced both teams for three quarters each and earned a split in their six quarters of play. The Comets “won” one of the three quarters against Henrico and “won” two of the three quarters against Cosby High School.

“It was a good day, good competition and our guys responded well,” Epperly said.

“I think everybody learned some things. We got to play a lot of people and see who played well together and what combinations (of players) are good. At this time of year you’re still learning about your team, and I think a lot of learning took place.”

Tuesday night, the Comets will face a Person (N.C.) High School team that has gotten off to a blistering start in winning its first three games of the season, and doing so by an average margin of over 40 points. 

The Rockets claimed their fourth consecutive championship in The Courier-Times Thanksgiving Classic Saturday night with a 70-37 victory over Northern Vance. Rockets point guard Marquis Torain was the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after scoring in double-digits in each of the two games, including a 24-point performance in Saturday’s championship game.

Epperly said he and his team are optimistic about their prospects in Tuesday night’s home season-opener.

“We feel real good,” Epperly said.

“We know Person is good. They’re different from what they’ve been the last couple of years. They had the superstar player (Tyrone Outlaw Jr.) the last two years, the kid who could really bail them out and get them a basket when they needed.

“This year, they’re doing it collectively,” he continued.

“They’re not real big, but they press, score a lot of points and get up and down the floor. It’s going to be a tough game, but we’re confident we will play well and we’ll be prepared.”

The Comets’ first quarter of Saturday’s scrimmage in Richmond, the opening quarter against Henrico, was their worst. After that, things improved quickly.

“We had only one quarter in which we didn’t play well,” Epperly remarked.

“Henrico jumped on us pretty good the first quarter of the day. We settled down and played well the rest of the day. With the exception of that first quarter, all of the rest of the quarters were close.

Epperly went into Saturday’s scrimmages in Richmond expecting to see his team face a height differential. However, the Comets matched up pretty well against both teams.

“Henrico was very athletic and they pressed, double-teamed and scrambled,” Epperly noted.

“ You couldn’t run any offense, you just had to make plays. We did see size against Cosby. They have a 6-6 center, and he’s a good player. The coach was telling me he transferred in from Kentucky. He’s probably their best player.

“That was the only size we saw,” Epperly added.

“We did okay with him. He hurt us a couple of plays in there where we made some mistakes. It (the size of the Cosby center) wasn’t a factor. We beat them two out of three (quarters) and the quarter we lost was a two-pointer.”

As was the case in the Comets’ first pre-season scrimmage against Dan River High School here last week, 3-point shooting was the Comets’ strength against both Henrico and Cosby.

“We really shot the 3-point shot well,” Epperly pointed out.

“The 3-point shot has carried us to this point.”

The Comets also did credible a job on defense and rebounding.

“We rebounded well at times,” Epperly noted.

“Our defense was okay at times. I thought we had some pretty good rotations. We’ve got to communicate better and get back on defense better. We had some lapses in defensive convergence where they got some easy baskets on us. We still have some work to do.”

The only glaring concern for the Comets has been an inability to get to the free throw line. Halifax County High School shot only one free throw in six quarters of play on Saturday.

“We’ve had 11 quarters of pre-season scrimmage, and our opponent has gotten to the free throw line more than us in every quarter,” Epperly pointed out.

“In six quarters on Saturday we shot one free throw, and we still came out pretty well. We’re going to have to get some plays at the rim, and we’re going to have to get fouled and get to the free throw line. That’s our only area of concern at this point.”

The second area of concern for the Comets at this point is consistency.

“This time of year you’re searching for consistency,” Epperly said. 

“I guess that would be the second negative – that we didn’t play with a lot of consistency. We were good in spurts, and then kind of drop off and then play well again. We’ve got to find some more consistency in our game.”