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Comets tumble into district cellar with 80-75 loss to Franklin County

On a night when Halifax County High School needed a big win, it came up short.

Facing Franklin County High School in a game in which the loser would fall into the cellar in the Western Valley District standings, the Comets came up short in the second half and lost to the Eagles 80-75 Tuesday night at Halifax County High School.

"This puts us in a real tough spot," said Halifax County High School Head Coach Larry Epperly.

"This was one we needed to win."

The Comets led 36-32 at halftime, but found themselves unable in the second half to sustain the positive things they had done in the first two quarters. Still, the Comets led by eight points at 47-39 after the first three minutes of the third quarter.

Unfortunately for the Comets, the lead didn't hold up very long.

Starting with a three-point play from Bradley Parcell with 4:57 left in the third quarter, the Eagles went on a 16-2 run that was capped by a free throw from Ray Witcher with 45.4 seconds left in the quarter to take a 55-49 lead.

The Comets got a three-point play from Evin Morrison, who had a breakout 16-point night, and James Burden tipped in a missed shot by Keyshawn Johnson at the buzzer to cut the Eagles' lead to one point at 55-54 entering the fourth quarter.

Halifax County kept the game close until the Eagles went on a late 7-0 run that produced a 71-63 edge with 2:22 to play. Despite trailing by 10 points at 78-68 with a minute left in the game, the Comets refused to quit.

Scoring seven points in the final 55 seconds, the Comets, after a three-point shot from Johnson with 13.7 seconds left, trailed by five points at 80-75, but still had a chance to tie the game in regulation.

Franklin County High School turned the ball over on its ensuing possession, but the Comets missed a scoring opportunity when Burden missed an eight-foot jump shot. Still trailing by five points with 5.2 seconds left, the Comets' Trelanne Johnson missed two free throws and the Eagles held on to escape with the win.

Poor free throw shooting in the fourth quarter made a tough game much tougher. After having hit 11 of 13 attempts from the charity stripe through the first three quarters of the game, the Comets went dry, hitting only three of 10 attempts in the fourth quarter when points were at a premium.

"We've been doing that," Epperly said when told of the team's late drought at the free throw line.

"We've been shooting around 52 percent from the free throw line. This wasn't anything new. We're not a real good free-throw shooting team. That's not surprising We've been inconsistent there all year."

Defensive breakdowns also played a role in the Comets' loss. The 80 points scored by the Eagles was the second-highest number of points scored against the Comets this season.

"We had the game under control, and all of a sudden we just quit guarding," Epperly.

"For some reason, defense was a dirty word tonight. If I have any disappointment, it was in our defensive effort. We just couldn't figure it out. We just let them (Franklin County) be good on offense."

Epperly said the team's offense went the wrong direction in the second half after the Comets had led by as many as seven points twice in the first half.

"We lost our patience," he pointed out.

"In the first half, we were finding the open man and getting good ball movement. In the second half we just lost it. We settled for quick "threes." What had gotten us off to a good start we kind of forgot about it and went to playing playground ball."

The Comets had four players to reach double digits in the scoring column. Tavion Petty led the Comets with 18 points, with Morrison next in line with 16 points. Burden scored 15 points and Keyshawn Johnson chipped in 11 points.

The Comets hit seven of 24 three-point shot attempts. Franklin County High School was 9-19 from beyond the three-point line.