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Good effort comes up short

Things looked pretty bad for Halifax County High School heading down the stretch in Saturday’s Western Valley District game against arch-rival GW in Danville.

The Comets trailed by their biggest margin of the game — 18 points — with just over three and a half minutes left in the game. Many GW fans figured the game was over — maybe even the GW players.

Little did they know the Comets had some life left. 

Ignited by the play of senior Dakota Delaware who scored three baskets in a late 15-5 Comets run, the Comets rallied and made a game of it at the end before falling 81-73. 

“All in all, we made a good effort,” noted Comets Head Coach Larry Epperly.

“We just made some mistakes.” 

While the Comets (7-10 overall, 0-5 district) failed to come up with the win, Delaware had a big night, coming off of the bench to score a game-high 22 points, 12 of which came in the fourth quarter when he accounted for almost half of his team’s in the final eight-minute stanza.

“I felt good about my team and about myself,” Delaware said. 

“We didn’t win, but I played as hard as I could.”

For Delaware it was a contrast in halves. The Comets senior scored only six points in the first half, four of them at the charity stripe. In the second half, Delaware came alive, putting together a huge fourth quarter effort that almost got the Comets over the hump.

“I just wasn’t getting open,” Delaware said of his situation in the first half.

“In the second half, they were finding me when I was open, and I was making shots.”

The Comets led 14-13 at the end of the first quarter, but got burned by GW’s outside shooting in the second quarter. GW buried nine three-point shots in the first half, six in the second quarter with Tamario Rodgers and Jamarcus Hairston hitting two each.

GW’s hot hand from long range, coupled with a series of Comets turnovers that allowed for some easy baskets, allowed the Eagles to outscore the Comets 32-18 in the second quarter and take a 45-32 lead at halftime.

“We knew their style of play, pressing all the time, was an issue,” Epperly said, pointing to his team’s 14 turnovers in the first half, about half of which led to easy layups for the Eagles.

”We knew coming in we had to take care of the ball and we didn’t do it at times.”

As far as GW’s propensity for hitting the long ball over the Comets’ zone defense, Epperly said it was a matter of choosing how to defend the Eagles.

“You had to pick your poison,” Epperly pointed out.

“If you have a choice, you’d rather give them the long one rather than allow them to penetrate and get the close ones. Tonight, they were making them. That’s the risk you take.”

Halifax County trailed by 16 points when it made its first second-half run at the Eagles. Delaware started it with a bucket off of an offensive rebound. Trelanne Johnson was fouled while hitting a layup and converted a three-point play. Keyshawn Johnson added two free throws with 3:57 left in the third quarter to bring the Comets to within nine points at 53-44.

GW (14-1, 4-1 district) got itself back on track and led 62-48 at the end of the third quarter, and pushed its lead to 18 points before the Comets made their late run.

Epperly said it was turnovers that bit the Comets again.

“We handed the ball to them too many times, too many turnovers that led to easy baskets was the difference in the game,” he pointed out.

“Turnovers have been an issue all year long. You have to be able to take care of the ball and not turn it over.

“We gave a good effort. We’ve just got to execute better.”

The Comets had three players to hit double figures in the scoring column. Trelanne Johnson followed Delaware’s effort with 16 points and Keyshawn Johnson was next in line with 13 points.

Rodgers, who canned four of the 11 three-point shots that GW buried in the game, led the Eagles with 18 points. Ahmad Thomas was next in line for GW with 14 points.