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Comets’ win streak ends at six

Halifax County High School head varsity boys basketball coach Larry Epperly saw a disturbing memory resurrect itself when his team faced Heritage High School Wednesday night in Lynchburg.


That memory was the turnover-plagued games he saw his team suffer through last season.

“This looked like last year’s team,” the disappointed Comets coach said in the wake of his team’s 51-46 loss in overtime to the Pioneers.

“We turned the ball over a lot last year, and we have not done that this year. We were just careless.”

Even with his team scoring a season-low 10 first-half points and bouncing back from one mistake after another, the Comets had a chance to win in regulation.

Trailing by four points at 39-35 with 3:25 left in the contest the Comets (9-3 overall, 4-1 Piedmont District) got back-to-back 3-pointers from Tavion Petty, who finished his night with five 3-point shots and 15 total points and Keyshawn Johnson to take a 41-39 lead. 

Trelanne Johnson completed a 3-point play for the Comets with 1:25 left to put his team up 44-39. Holding a two-point lead after the Pioneers’ J.C. Calloway connected on a 3-pointer, the Comets had a chance to seal the win with Keyshawn Johnson at the charity stripe with a one-and-one opportunity with 16.2 seconds left.

All the Comets needed was for Johnson to hit the first shot, but Johnson missed, And, after a Comets’ foul, Calloway sank a pair of free throws with eight seconds left to tie the game. 

The Comets had the ball after a timeout with 3.7 seconds left. But, the Comets turned the ball over on the inbounds play and the Pioneers’ Antonio Sherman missed a long 3-point attempt at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.

Heritage High School (7-2 overall) scored the first four points in the first 35 seconds of overtime to gain a quick edge. After a layup from James Smith Jr. brought the Comets to within three points at 49-46, the Comets missed a pair of shots.  Calloway hit two free throws for the Pioneers after the Comets were forced to foul in an effort to get the ball back in the closing seconds to seal the five-point win for the Pioneers.

Johnson’s miss at the free throw line was a key play in the outcome.

“As ugly as it was, we make a free throw and we get out of here with a win,” Epperly remarked.

“One of the things you have to do to win close games is make your free throws at the end. We just didn’t do it.”

The missed free throw was, however, only a small part of the Comets’ shortcomings.

“We had too many turnovers, too many missed block-outs, missing free throws at the end, just things you have to do to win basketball games,” Epperly explained.

“I thought we were sloppy the whole game. We had a hard time doing the basic fundamentals that have been winning games for us. “

There was a positive note, though.

“We competed,” Epperly pointed out.

“I thought the effort was good. We just made a lot of mistakes.”

The Comets never led in the frustrating, low-scoring first half that ended with the Pioneers on top 14-10. A 3-pointer from Petty with 6:53 left in the third quarter gave the Comets their first lead of the game. The lead swapped hands four more times in the third quarter which ended with a 6-2 Comets run that gave the Comets a 30-27 lead.

Sherman converted a 3-point play for the Pioneers with 7:26 left in the fourth quarter to deadlock the game and set the stage for the final minutes.

The Comets had two players to reach double figures in scoring. In addition to Petty, who scored 15 points, the Comets got 10 points from James Burden. Smith chipped in eight points.

Calloway led the Pioneers with a game-high 19 points and had a trio of 3-point baskets.