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Comets battle hard, fall to PH 54-49

ROANOKE Halifax County High School matched Patrick Henry High School in a battle of the long ball and almost won.

A short-handed Comets team that was without one of its senior starters and then lost starting guard Trelanne Johnson midway through the second quarter due to an asthma attack battled Patrick Henry down to the wire before bowing to the Patriots 54-49 Tuesday night in Roanoke.

"Our kids played their hearts out," said Comets Head Coach Larry Epperly.

"We were short-handed and it seemed like we were facing adversity all night long. We just kept battling and kept battling. We're not too far from winning these types of games. It was a team effort. You always want to win, but when your team gives you this kind of effort, you can't feel bad about it."

The Comets' tenacious zone defense kept Patrick Henry High School's pair of standout guards, Marcus Banks and Christian Kirchman, the team's shooting standouts, from going on a major run.

Banks, last year's Western Valley District Player of the Year, led the Patriots with 18 points, but hit only three of his team's seven three-point baskets in the game. Kirchman sank only two while scoring all eight of his points for the game in the first half.

"I thought the zone (defense) gave us a good tempo for the game," Epperly said.

"They (PH) want to play a faster tempo and we kept the tempo right where we wanted it. We had the game right where we wanted. We were just a basket away or a stop away. We had a chance."

T.J. Brooks kept the Comets in the game early, hitting five three-point baskets in the first half to account for all of his team-high 15 points. He said he was surprised the Patriots let him take the shots.

"I hadn't been hitting them all season, so they were probably giving them to me," Brooks said .

"After about three of them they started pressing up on me. I started giving the ball to Keyshawn (Comets guard Keyshawn Johnson) and he drove and kicked the ball out. That made them (PH) slide in, and I had an open shot."

The Comets kept the game close the entire night. They trailed 19-14 at the end of the first quarter and were down by 10 points at 30-20 at the halftime break.

After trailing by as many as 11 points in the third quarter, Halifax County mounted a 10-3 run in the final minute and 42 seconds of the quarter, a run fueled by a pair of three-point baskets and a layup from Tavion Petty and a pair of free throws from Keyshawn Johnson, to make it a five-point game at 41-36 heading into the fourth quarter.

Trailing by nine points with three minutes to play, the Comets mounted another run that started with a layup from Keyshawn Johnson with 1:03 left in the game. James Burden converted a three-point play with 20 seconds left in the game to bring the Comets to within four points.

Johnson hit a twisting layup with 6.8 seconds left to make it a three-point game at 52-49, but the Patriots hit two free throws with 4.5 seconds left to seal the win.

Brooks led the Comets with 15 points. Keyshawn Johnson was next in line with 10 points and Petty chipped in eight points.