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Comets shoot down FC 71-57 in district tourney opener

When Halifax County High School met Franklin County High School in Rocky Mount in December the Comets were missing starter Trelanne Johnson, from its lineup.

The Comets and Johnson showed the Eagles the difference in Monday night’s opening-round Piedmont District Tournament game at Franklin County High School.

Johnson and three of his Comets teammates scored in double figures, with Johnson leading the way with 20 points, as the Comets topped the Eagles 71-57. The win advanced the Comets into last night’s scheduled semi-final round game against GW-Danville at Bassett High School.

It was a big night for Johnson, who scored 15 of his team-high 20 points in the second half on a combination of drives to the basket and on shots deep into the paint.

“They (Franklin County High School) put a zone defense out there so Keyshawn (Comets point guard Keyshawn Johnson) couldn’t get the ball,” he explained.

“He had to throw the ball in to me and I pushed the break. Their (Franklin County High School’s) big man was out, so it opened up the paint a little more for me to operate down low. James (Burden) was getting a little bit down in there too. When James got going, I got going.”

Tavion Petty followed with 18 points, 14 of them coming in the first half. Will Miller scored 17 points with 13 of them being scored in the first half. Burden followed with 16 points.

“If I get a hot start, I’ll keep attacking,” Petty said.

“There are four of us averaging in double figures. All we’ve got to do is keep attacking. This isn’t a one-person team. That’s how we’ve made it this far.”

Monday night’s win was the first for the Comets in three tries against the Eagles this season. The Eagles beat the Comets by eight points in their first meeting in December and escaped with a win against the Comets in January at Halifax County High School on a last-second 3-point shot.

For the Comets, the third time was the charm.

“It’s an important time of year,” Comets Head Coach Larry Epperly remarked after his team’s 17th win of the season.

“Everybody is getting ready for conference play. We got a little momentum after the GW game. We thought we would play well here. We wanted to be aggressive and we were and played hard. They (Franklin County High School) are a good team. To win here, you really have to play well. That’s what we did.”

The Comets staged another solid defensive performance and managed to hold the Eagles at bay through a pair of second-half rallies.

Franklin County High School led only once, that coming in the opening minute of the game. Petty erased the Eagles’ lead with a 3-point basket and the Comets went on to take a 19-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Eagles trimmed the Comets’ lead to two points just past the halfway mark of the second quarter. Miller converted a three-point play and Petty followed with a 3-point basket to allow the Comets to extend their lead to 30-22 with 3:39 left in the first half.

Later, with the Comets leading 30-24, Petty canned a 3-point shot, followed it up with a layup and Miller backed it up with a 3-pointer to give the Comets a 38-24 lead with 2:07 left in the half. 

From there, the Comets took a 10-point 38-28 lead into the halftime break.

The Comets withstood a brief rally by the Eagles in the third quarter, using back-to-back baskets from Trelanne Johnson go up 48-35 with 1:47 left in the period. Johnson was able to break the Eagles’ pressure defense for the easy baskets that extended the Comets’ lead from nine points back to 13 points.

“Our attitude when teams press us is we want to be aggressive and let that be our offense and go and shoot layups,” Epperly pointed out.

“We did that.” 

Franklin County High School cut the Comets’ lead to seven points with 6:19 left in the contest, but Johnson broke the Eagles’ pressure defense again and got two baskets for the Comets in 17 seconds to allow the Comets to extend their lead back to 11 points at 57-46 with 5:38 left to play.

The closest the Eagles got after that was nine points, as the Comets sealed the win with solid play down the stretch.