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Comets crush Orange County HS 82-28; earn regional tourney berth

In the most important game of the season, a game in which a win would extend the season, Halifax County High School staged a crushing performance.

Picking apart Orange County High School's zone defense with the precision of a surgeon, the Comets stormed to a 20-9 lead in the first eight minutes and went on to crush the Hornets 82-28 in Tuesday night's 5A Conference 16 Basketball Tournament semi-final game at Halifax County High School. 

The Comets, who earned a berth and a home game in next week's 5A North Region Basketball Tournament, will host the winner of Tuesday night's Albemarle High School-Patrick Henry High School-Ashland game on Friday at 7 p.m. at Halifax County High School in the Conference 16 Tournament championship game.

"We really played good basketball," Comets Head Coach Larry Epperly remarked after his team's 18th win of the season.

"We had a stretch there where we were fun to watch.I thought we were very focused, confident and had a little bounce in our step."

The Comets wasted little time in picking apart the Hornets' zone defense. Time after time the Comets' James Burden and Trelanne Johnson penetrated Orange County High School's defense to score easy baskets deep in the paint.

With the Comets trailing 5-4, Burden scored an easy basket inside with 4:21 left in the first quarter to give the Comets the lead for good and kick off a 12-0 run by the Comets that produced a 16-6 lead.

That run took most of the life out of Orange County High School. The quarter ended with the Comets on top 20-9, and Burden and Johnson having combined for 15 of the Comets' points.

Johnson hit two baskets in the first minute and four seconds of the second quarter to give the Comets a 24-9 lead and send the Hornets deeper into the doldrums.

Halifax County led 40-16 at halftime, and, if there was any life left in Orange County High School going into the second half, the Comets quickly snuffed it out.

Seven unanswered points by the Comets in the first minute and 13 seconds of the third quarter produced a 47-16 lead for the Comets. With his team leading 72-20 with just under seven and a half minutes left in the game, Epperly pulled all of his top six players from the game and let his reserves cap the 54-point win.

The 82 points scored by the Comets were the most points the team had scored this season. Nine Comets players scored in the game, with four players reaching double figures. Trelanne Johnson led the Comets with a game-high 22 points. Tavion Petty followed with 15 points, Burden finished with 13 points and Keyshawn Johnson added 11 points.

Most impressive of all was the Comets' defense. The Hornets, who had canned eight 3-point baskets in their previous outing, hit only two of the 22 shots they took from beyond the 3-point arc.

The Comets made Orange County High School struggle for every basket it sank all night and shut down the Hornets for extended periods of time.

"They (Orange County High School) just could not find a shot," Epperly pointed out.

"It started early from the opening tip-off. I think they got frustrated that shots were hard to come by."

In contrast, the Comets nailed 10 of 22 attempts from 3-point range and they helped their cause by limiting turnovers to just nine for the game.

"We expected to win this game, and that's what we did," Trelanne Johnson remarked.

"We were clicking in all cylinders and playing good team basketball," added Petty.

"This is crunch time. We didn't miss a beat."

"This was a good, big step," Trelanne Johnson chimed in.

"Now, we've just got to win on Friday."