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Season ends for Comets with 85-61 loss to Franklin County

ROCKY MOUNT The season is over for the Halifax County High School varsity boys basketball team.

Needing a win in Friday night's game against Franklin County High School to stay alive in the battle for the final berth in the Western Valley District Tournament, the Comets came up short, falling to the Eagles 85-61.

With the loss, the Comets finish their season with an 9-12 overall record while finishing 1-7 in Western Valley District play.

"Defensively, we just had no answer for them," said Comets Head Coach Larry Epperly.

"They play really good basketball against us."

Franklin County High School blistered the Comets early. After the Comets hit a game-tying basket by James Burden with 2:11 left in the first quarter, the Eagles' Josh Blankenship and Devin Clements cashed in back-to-back 3-point shots and Blankenship canned another with three seconds left to complete a 9-0 run that gave the Eagles a 19-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Blankenship opened the second quarter with another 3-pointer to put the Eagles up 22-10. The Comets never recovered.

Trailing 41-26 at halftime, the Comets, struggling both offensively and defensively, could do no better than get to within 15 points of the Eagles, that coming on a basket from Burden with 4:31 left in the third quarter that made the score 50-35.

The Comets trailed by 20 points at 59-39 at the end of he third quarter and were unable to make a run at the Eagles in the fourth quarter.

Tavion Petty, who led the Comets in scoring with 21 points on seven 3-point shots, and Burden, who chipped in 18 points, accounted for the bulk of the Comets' offense. Keyshawn Johnson tallied 11 points and was the only other Comets player to reach double figures.

"I thought we fought hard early," Epperly pointed out.

"We did some things we wanted to do, but our shooting was horrible. We missed a ton of layups. We just weren't able to do it.They're bigger than we are and stronger than we are and we struggled."

Blankenship led Franklin County High School with 27 points, with his night including five 3-point baskets. Witcher followed with 24 points, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter. Clements finished with 11 points.

The night was one on which the Comets lost a valuable opportunity to make the district playoffs.

Epperly said he was informed by school officials earlier Friday that the Comets had been awarded a district win as a result of William Fleming High School having allegedly used an ineligible player during one of its two games against the Comets earlier this season.

Also, Epperly said he was told William Fleming High School, which is battling GW and Patrick Henry High School for the district title, has indicated it will appeal the decision.

With the win resulting from the William Fleming forfeit, the Comets could have had two district wins and a one-game lead over Franklin County High School in the chase for the final berth in the district tournament field had they defeated Franklin County High School  Friday night.

"We knew going in it was a great opportunity for us," Epperly said.

"We just couldn't take advantage of it. We had a lot of missed opportunities."