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Comets blast Rockets for Gazette tournament title

Defense has been the recipe for success all season for the Halifax County High School boys varsity basketball team, but the Comets fed Person High School a steady diet of offense in the championship game of the Gazette-Virginian Holiday Basketball Classic on Saturday, hitting 11 3-pointers and running away to a 69-47 win.

Halifax County reached the championship game with a 77-33 romp over Gretna High School, while Person broke a late 55-55 tie with Park View High School of South Hill to reach the finals.

Treyvon Brandon nailed four 3-pointers among his team-high 14 points for the game to lead the Comets.

James Burden added 12, James Smith Jr. 11 and Trelanne Johnson 10 points, while Tavion Petty cashed in on three 3-pointers for Halifax County, which captured its first holiday classic after a three-year drought.

“I didn’t expect it, but my teammates told me to step up and hit big shots, and it just happened for me,” said Brandon.

“I just felt good, my teammate Keyshawn (Johnson) was getting me open, and I just made the shots.”

Brandon also was matched up against Person’s primary scoring threat, Marquis Torain, and he played solid defense against him, added Comets Head Coach Larry Epperly.

“He had 28 the last time, but Treyvon did a great job on him tonight (14 points),” Epperly pointed out.

“I thought Will Miller did a great job inside tonight, and it was just a great effort all the way around,” Epperly added.

Halifax held a 17-11 lead after one quarter and led 23-15 after a Brandon 3-pointer with three minutes gone in the second quarter.

A 14-8 run the rest of the quarter, including five points from Trelanne Johnson, and a 3-pointer from Keyshawn Johnson (9 points) made it 37-23 at intermission.

Person would get no closer than 10 points the rest of the way, cutting its deficit to 40-30 midway through the third quarter on a 3-pointer from Rashi Richmond.

Halifax County built a 52-35 lead after three quarters and cruised home to the win, with Smith scoring seven of his points in the final period and Petty hitting two 3-pointers.

Trelanne Johnson said winning the tournament in his senior season was a long time coming.

“It feels good, it’s my third year and the first time we’ve ever won it,” he said.

The key to this team’s defensive effort, according to Johnson, was not letting Person penetrate.

“Defense, defense, defense, that’s all we work on in practice,” said Johnson.

“If you play defense together, it’s simple.”

First and foremost, I’m so happy for our seniors,” said Comets Coach Larry Epperly.

“It’s the first time they’ve won it, and it means a lot to them to get this classic.”

“In the locker room, the guys were happy, but they understand we still have to get some things done,” Epperly noted.

“I’m happy with the way we’re playing, the ball is moving, and the defense is just phenomenal, we’re really playing great defense.

“We said before the game we had to play defense and rebound, and we really did.”

“We didn’t think they could beat us from the 3-point line, so we packed it in,” he added.  Both games we played before they got to the free throw line 29 times, and we knew we had to take that away.

“They couldn’t beat us over the top with the 3-point shot and they couldn’t get to the line, so we just had great teamwork and great effort.

“It kind of fooled me, because I told them today it’s going to be close, a 4-point game at their place, a 2-point game here, and for us to really manhandle them in the second half is pretty amazing.”

The Rockets never could get untracked offensively, according to Person Head Coach Charles Dacus.

“Hats off to Halifax, they played a great game and came out with a lot of energy and emotion we didn’t have,” he said.

“We could never get it going or respond with any kind of challenge the whole night.

“When a team’s knocking down a lot of 3’s and playing that well, it’s tough on us to defend it, because we’re not a very good 3-point shooting team.

“I thought we did a pretty good job attacking and doing the things we needed to do, but we just weren’t getting the fouls.

“I thought we were avoiding contact a lot, which is very untypical of how we’ve been playing.

“That something we need to correct pretty soon.”

The Comets’ offensive success both inside and outside proved hard to contain, Dacus said.

“I thought we were doing a pretty good job early on of contesting the 3-point shots, then all of once they started getting the easy layups, and we got in the mindset of taking that away, and it opened up the 3-point shot. 

‘Their senior class hasn’t won the tournament, and I think they were on a mission tonight, and they really played solid and did what they needed to do to win the game.”