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Comets take Conference 16 title with win over PH-Ashland

Halifax County High School senior Trelanne Johnson had a huge smile on his face as his Comets teammates watched him take a photo of the 5A Conference 16 Basketball Tournament championship trophy at his dressing room locker.

"I've never won a championship since I've been on the team," he remarked.

"This year is my last year, and I feel great about it."

So do his teammates.

The Comets took more than a half an hour after receiving the championship trophy following their 57-39 win over Patrick Henry High School-Ashland in Friday night's Conference 16 Tournament championship game at Halifax County High School to celebrate their big win.

Players celebrated with fans and took turns cutting strands of the net on one of the goals, relishing the accomplishment of their 19th win of the season.

After all, this was the first championship a Comets boys basketball team has won since the Comets team of 2002-2003 won the Western Valley District title.

"This is really super fantastic," pointed out Comets senior James Burden.

"We haven't won anything like this in a long, long time. Now, we've got to get ready for the regionals."

Friday night's win earned the Comets a first-round bye in next week's 5A North Region Tournament. The Comets will play at home Tuesday night, hosting a quarterfinal round game against an opponent that will be announced later.

The Comets used defense to ignite its offense in the second half and break the game open. The Patriots kept the Comets in check for the first nine minutes of the game with strong inside play from center Lucas Pienkowski, who scored 18 of his team's 23 first-half points and finished his night with a game-high 23 points.

Halifax County High School used a 7-0 run triggered by a 3-pointer from Tavion Petty that spanned the middle portion of the second quarter to forge a 24-18 lead with 2:44 left in the opening half.

The Comets led 28-23 at halftime and, after the Patriots cut the Comets' lead to four points in the first two and a half minutes of the third quarter, the Comets made another run. Burden scored inside with 5:07 left in the quarter to kick off the Comets' second 7-0 run of the game, a run that put the Comets up 38-29 with just over two minutes left in the third quarter.

Leading 38-31 heading into the fourth quarter, the Comets scored 11 unanswered points in the first two minutes and 33 seconds of the fourth quarter including five from Petty to forge a 49-31 lead and put the game out of the Patriots' reach.

"We just locked down on him in the second half," Petty said of the Comets' defensive effort that held Pienowski to just five points in the second half.

"We just turned our intensity up."

Petty, who led the Comets in scoring with 21 points that included a trio of 3-point baskets, said his team never lost confidence despite struggling at times during the first half.

"You can't worry when you get down " Petty pointed out.

"We weren't playing as well as we could in the first quarter. We just knew if we could play like the Comets could we could come back, get the lead, and win the game."

Seven players got into the scoring column for the Comets, with Petty's 21 points leading the way. Trelanne Johnson followed with 11 points, Burden chipped in nine points, Will Miller added seven points and Keyshawn Johnson, who has been somewhat ill, contributed five points that included two baskets that helped spark the Comets' big fourth-quarter run. Treyvon Brandon and James Smith Jr. scored two points each.

"We're just happy for our team, our players, our school and our community," said Comets Head Coach Larry Epperly.

"What a beautiful sight it was to see the kids cutting down the net. It makes you appreciate all of the hard work that goes into it and you really feel good for your kids."