The old saying goes that it is hard to beat a good team three times.
That saying held up on Monday night when the Halifax County High School boys basketball team avenged two losses to GW-Danville last week and defeated the Eagles 72-58 in the Region 4D quarterfinals.
The game was close throughout the entire first half and through the first minutes of the third quarter, but the Comets were able to build a lead and never looked back.
Halifax brought energy with them on Monday night, and the results on the court reflected that.
The Comets only regular season games came last Thursday and Friday against the same GW team. They lost both games by a combined seven points, but were matched up with the Eagles again in the first round of the regional tournament.
Halifax senior Kevon Ferrell scored a combined 10 points in the first two games against GW, but last night Ferrell erupted for a game high 21 points. Ferrell made three of the teams four three-pointers as well. Jaden Waller came off of the bench to score 15 points. In the fourth quarter, Waller scored eight straight points for the Comets to extend their lead.
Waller had started the first two games, but head coach Sterling Williams started Nasir Word over Waller on Monday.
“Jaden had been starting for us and when I told him that I would be starting Nas (Word) tonight he said ‘Ok, I’ll be ready,’ and that is what we have to have. Guys being unselfish,” Williams said.
The first quarter began with a Ferrell three-pointer, and the two teams went back and forth throughout the quarter. GW started the game in a full court press, but the Comets had little problem breaking the press, and that also led to easy baskets for them.
GW used their size to get shots inside the paint, as well as getting several offensive rebounds off of missed shots to keep them in the game early.
Halifax led 18-17 after the first quarter, and the game stayed close throughout the rest of the half.
The Comets were up three with under a minute to go in the half, but GW scored four quick points to take the lead for the first time in the game. With six seconds remaining in the half, Ferrell hit sophomore Kameron Roberts in transition, and Roberts made the basket as time expired to give the Comets the lead 35-34 at the half.
Ferrell opened up the second half the same way he opened up the game, by hitting a three-pointer. The Eagles responded to keep the game close early on, but the Comets began to get the edge toward the middle of the third quarter.
The Comets began limiting the Eagles to one shot as they started to bring down defensive rebounds. Williams felt this was a big turning point for his team.
“That is typical GW. They are feisty, they get after you on the defensive glass and offensive boards but we did our job tonight. We were boxing out and making contact with those guys,” Williams said.
“For the most part, especially in the second half, we were limiting them to one shot. In the first half we would get them to take a bad shot or a contested shot and then somehow they would get a put back, and we were able to limit those second chance points in the second half and kind of open the game up a bit.”
The game did open up as Halifax outscored GW 16-9 in the third quarter to give them a 51-43 lead heading into the final quarter of play.
Davon (D.J.) Jennings opened up the quarter with a lay up, and then Waller scored the next eight points for the Comets. Waller and Jennings combined for the first 12 points of the final quarter for Halifax.
Halifax was clicking on all facets of the game, especially in the second half. Waller scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half. Jennings was a force on the inside all night on the offensive and defensive end. The team limited their turnovers and took high quality shots and seemed to be in sync with everything they did.
As time ticked away in the final quarter, GW and Halifax both played some of their reserve players, something neither fan base thought they would see in a game of this magnitude.
Halifax outscored GW 21-15 in the final quarter and 37-24 overall in the second half to defeat the Eagles 72-58 and advance to the regional semifinals on Wednesday night.
After the game Ferrell said now that the team has more practice and game time under them, it has been a big help.
“I just felt like I needed a little more practice. We came in and basically went straight in to a game,” he said.
The team found out on Tuesday of last week that their season would begin on Thursday. The Comets had not practiced in months and had one practice on Wednesday before hitting the court on Thursday and Friday.
Entering the locker room on Monday night after the game it was obvious that the Comets are hitting their stride. They are gelling as a team and taking ownership of things. Williams talked about that as well.
“One of our senior guys, D.J. (Jennings), said that we scored 72 points and if we don’t score that many points maybe we don’t win so we need to do better defensively. So for these guys to start taking ownership in this short season, we can go very far,” Williams said.
Halifax will travel to Pulaski on Wednesday night for a 6 p.m. start in the Region 4D semifinals. The winner will play in the regional championship game on Friday night. The Comets are now two wins away from back-to-back-to-back state tournament berths.
The energy that the Comets had on and off the court on Monday looked like a team that is hungry to get back to the state tournament, and when asked about that energy after the game, Ferrell had a short but impactful statement going forward.
“If we bring that exact same energy, that will win us a whole bunch of game.”
Kevon Ferrell- 21
Jaden Waller 15
D.J. Jennings- 11
Kameron Roberts- 9
Keshawn Wells- 7
Nijay Ross- 5
Nasir Word- 2
Adam Palmer- 2
Jakobe Dixon- 20
Donavon Howard- 13
Xavier Walters- 12
Sha’Kobe Hairston- 4