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Late Comets bid falls short

James Burden was trying to mask his discomfort as the Halifax County High School varsity boys basketball team filed out of the locker room at the end of Saturday night’s game against Person (N.C.) High School.

The Comets’ senior forward had rolled an ankle in Friday night’s Piedmont District game against Franklin County High School. Despite the discomfort of the swollen heavily-taped ankle, Burden, also playing with a chipped tooth from an injury sustained in an earlier game, played well.

Burden finished his night with 12 points, 10 of them coming in the second half. But, the Comets came up short, falling 63-59 to their neighboring border rival.

“It was a tough loss,” Burden acknowledged.

“I wanted to win. The outcome was different than I thought it was going to be.”

Saturday night’s loss to the Rockets was the second loss for the Comets in as many nights. On Friday night, the Comets lost to Franklin County High School in a Piedmont District game in Rocky Mount.

The effort the Comets put forth against the Rockets was notable. Burden’s effort, considering his injury, was huge.

“I’m really proud of our team,” remarked Comets Head Coach Larry Epperly. 

“This was a pretty big challenge to go to Franklin County and to Person on back-to-back nights. I was very pleased with our effort tonight. We didn’t play mistake-free, but we gave ourselves a chance. We were in the ballgame the whole way. A turnover here, a missed shot there and we’re out of here with a win.”

Epperly praised the effort of the entire team and the contributions of the players that came in off of the bench including Quentin Jennings, who scored seven points and helped give the Comets a lift.

Burden, Epperly said, gave a fine effort.

“James turned his ankle last night (Friday night) and could hardly walk,” Epperly pointed out.

“He played 32 minutes and gave us a great effort.”

Burden, who scored seven of the Comets’ 20 fourth-quarter points, to helped spur the Comets’ late rally.

“I had to hang in there,” Burden remarked.

“We’re without Trelanne Johnson. He’s good on the boards and we needed somebody to rebound the boards. It was hard, but I had to fight it.”

The Comets got off to a slow start and trailed 16-4 after the first five and a half minutes of the game. They gradually righted themselves, held the Rockets scoreless for the last minute and a half of the quarter, and got to within nine points at 20-11 at the end of the quarter.

Trailing 26-19 with just under five and a half minutes left in the first half, the Comets blistered the Rockets with a 13-2 run capped by a 12-foot shot from Treyvon Brandon with 2:19 left in the half that gave the Comets the lead for the first time at 30-28. The run included a trio of 3-point shots, one each from Quentin Jennings, Keyshawn Johnson and Brandon. 

Halifax County didn’t score again the rest of the quarter, and trailed 35-30 at halftime after having had five different players sink 3-point shots in the eight-minute stanza.

Jennings and Johnson scored to bring the Comets back to within a point at 35-34 in the first minute and a half of the second half. The Comets took the lead for the second time after two free throws from Burden but the Rockets finished the quarter with an 8-3 run to go up 43-39 heading into the final period.

After falling behind by 10 points with 1:53 left, the Comets fought their way back again. With the help of 3-pointers from Tavion Petty and Johnson, the Comets got to within three points at 60-57 with 31.2 seconds left.

The Rockets hit free throws when they needed them down the stretch and sealed the four-point win.

Petty led the Comets in scoring with 14 points. Burden and Keyshawn Johnson both chipped in 12 points and James Smith Jr. added nine points.

The Rockets’ Marquis Torain scored a game-high 29 points. He scored 20 of the Rockets’ 35 first-half points.