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Comets' season ends with 69-27 loss to Potomac

DUMFRIES Halifax County High School's magical basketball season has come to an end.

Undefeated Potomac High School kept its unblemished record intact by overwhelming the Comets 69-27 here Thursday night in the semifinals of the 5A North Region Basketball Tournament.

With the loss, the Comets finished the season with a 20-8 record, with this being the first season a Comets basketball team has won 20 games in a season since the 1973-1974 season when the Comets finished 20-6 and reached the state tournament semi-finals.

This season also marked the first time a Comets boys basketball team has played its way into a regional tournament in 12 years.

"It certainly didn't go the way we wanted it to," remarked Comets Head Coach Larry Epperly.

"The talent level (of Potomac High School) was overwhelming. We really struggled. I felt we competed, but their talent overwhelmed us."

While the Comets were able to do little right against the bigger, more experienced Panthers, Epperly said the loss is not a blemish on his team's season.

"They're the best team we've played this year," Epperly pointed out.

"We're not going to let this one game define what we did this season and who we are."

The Comets were unable to muster any real offensive threat against the Panthers' pressure defense. Halifax County High School's inside game with James Burden and Trelanne Johnson was extinguished quickly, as time after time the Panthers' trio of 6-10 senior center Trey Porter and 6-4 forwards Randy Haynes and Tariq Felder swatted down attempted shots and knocked passes in the lane away.

"They were moving me out of the way," Burden said.

"They wouldn't let me get the ball at all. It was almost like they knew the play."

When that part of the Comets' offensive effort was taken away, the next move was to the outside. The Comets struggled there as well.

Halifax County High School hit only one of 14 shots from the floor in the pivotal second quarter and hit only four of 23 shots in the first half. For the game, the Comets were 11-42 from the field.

"It was a carryover from the second half the other night (against Mt. Vernon High School)," Epperly said.

"It's a bad time of year to go cold, but they (Potomac High School) had something to do with it. They're a good team."

Despite turnovers on their first two possessions of the game, the Comets kept things close through the first quarter, which ended with the Comets trailing 15-8. Seven unanswered points by the Panthers in the first minute and 49 seconds of the second quarter gave Potomac High School a 22-8 lead.

After a free throw by the Comets' Trelanne Johnson with 4:21 left in the first half, the Panthers went on an 8-2 run down the last 3:18 of the half to take a 30-11 lead and effectively put the game out of the Comets' reach.

If there was any life left in the Comets, the Panthers took it away with a 9-0 run through the middle stages of the third quarter, a run that gave the Panthers a 42-15 lead with 2:49 left in the period.

Halifax County High School trailed 51-17 at the end of the third quarter and trailed by a 40-point margin at 61-21 with 5:50 left in the game.

"They just took us out of what we wanted to do," Epperly explained.

"That's what good teams do."

Trelanne Johnson led the Comets in scoring with eight points. Keyshawn Johnson was next in line with seven points and Tavion Petty chipped in five points.

Porter, who has committed to play basketball for George Mason University next season, led Potomac High School in scoring with 20 points that included four dunks. Haynes finished the game with 18 points and Felder had eight points.

Thursday night's win advanced Potomac High School (26-0) into Saturday's 5A North Region Tournament  championship game and earned the Panthers a berth in the VHSL 5A state tournament, which begins next week.