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Comets edge Person HS 69-67 in opener

Tavion Petty couldn't help but smile. Neither could his Halifax County High School teammates.

Petty exploded for 33 points, hitting nine 3-point shots including one with a minute and 28 seconds left in that game that erased a six-point for his team, as the Comets held on to edge Person (N.C.) High School 69-67 in their home season opener.

The loss was the first of the season for Person (N.C.) High School, which had won its first three games of the season by an average of 40 points.

"I'm just trying to get better each year, trying to be more dependable in the clutch," Petty remarked.

"I'm just trying to do what I've got to do."

Petty had 20 points at halftime, connecting on seven field goals, six of them 3-pointers, as he helped spur the Comets to a 41-38 lead at the half, after the Comets had led by as many as seven points earlier in the second quarter.

"I felt like if I could get the ball off there was a good chance it would go in," Petty remarked

"I got the shots off and they were good shots and I kept hitting them."

While Petty had one of the best nights of his career and the Comets snapped a five-game losing streak to the Rockets, it was by no means a cakewalk.

The Rockets focused their efforts on stopping Petty in the second half and the strategy worked for a good while. After Petty hit a 3-pointer with 5:26 left in the third quarter to put the Comets up  49-42. Petty didn't score again until there was 2:58 left in the game. During that span, the Rockets took the lead and built a six-point edge twice, the last time coming on a pair of free throws from Jeff Hamlett with 4:30 left in the contest.

James Burden, who finished with nine points, made three key baskets during Petty's brief drought and Trelanne Johnson chipped in a couple of tough baskets to help the Comets weather the storm.

"We were down and James and the whole team fought back," Petty pointed out.

"I just told the guys to keep fighting - keep fighting the adversity and keep crashing the boards and rebounding and keep executing."

Burden credited Johnson for much of what he was able to do.

"Trelanne gave me the ball every time I needed it," Burden said.

"When he drove the lane two defenders would close in on him and he would kick the ball out to me. I was open and I scored."

Petty's basket with 2:58 left in the game allowed the Comets to tie the game at 62-62. Person High School regained the lead on a basket by Antwon Smith off of an offensive rebound. But, the Rockets failed to capitalize on back-to-back steals. Petty made the Rockets pay for the miscues, hitting a 3-pointer with 1:28 left in the game to give the Comets a 65-64 lead.

A basket by Burden with 1:03 left put the Comets up by three points. Smith cut the Comets' lead to a single digit with a basket with 53.9 seconds left, but a driving layup down the middle of the lane from Petty with 34.5 seconds left put the Comets back up by three points. That, and a big rebound by Johnson with 15.8 seconds left effectively sealed the win for the Comets.

"I'm very pleased to get this first win at home," said Halifax County High School Head Coach Larry Epperly.

"We knew it (the game) was going to be a tough one. Person is a good ball club. They're a scrappy ballclub. They play hard, they get after you, they throw some different defenses at you and make you have to think a little bit. It's good to beat a good team."

Epperly cautioned that his players shouldn't get too high on this one win.

"This is just the first game, and we still have some work to do," he pointed out,

"We've got to turn right around tomorrow (Wednesday) and face Heritage. I hope we will have something left in us. We didn't play as many people as I had planned to. Tomorrow night, we're going to have to play more people."