Halifax County High School head coach Sterling Williams outlines a play with his players during a late timeout in the fourth quarter of the VHSL Class 4 state tournament quarterfinal game against Millbrook High School at Heritage High School in Lynchburg in March.

The final buzzer sounded on March 6 in the Virginia High School League state quarterfinals where Halifax County High School basketball team suffered a devastating three-point loss to the Millbrook Pioneers.

With optimism surrounding the future of the program with 12 players returning for the Comets, head coach Sterling Williams and his staff were ready to get to work with their offseason workouts.

But mere weeks after the season ended the coronavirus pandemic swept the world, and the Comets have yet to step back on the court since their loss in the state quarterfinals.

With the VHSL tentatively setting the return for basketball season for Dec. 7, there are still questions involving Halifax and other schools around the state whether they will even be able to play this season.

Halifax County High School athletic director Allen Lawter has said that there will be no workouts, tryouts, practices or games until students go back to school in person.

Halifax County Public Schools are closed to in-person instruction for the first nine weeks, but the school board plans to hold a meeting halfway through the first nine weeks to determine the next steps.

For Williams, his team has already missed out on important time that they spend in the offseason preparing for the upcoming season.

“The spring and the summer is the time they really make the big jumps with their athleticism and skill improvements, and all of that was halted,” Williams said.

“Even if we were to start workouts today they still just missed six months when they would have been able to really focus in on their individual games,” he added.

“As far as coaches we miss our guys of course because those six months are time that we really get to bond with them over the spring and summer, and we really felt like this summer was going to be a big one for us,” Williams said.

“It was going to be the best one that we had had since taking over the program, not just player wise but just kind of the direction we wanted to go into the spring and summer,” he added.

For the Comets basketball program, the spring and summer months also are spent bonding with each other and building relationships between players and coaches.

“Last year we went to Staunton River together all of us under one roof, and we wanted to expand on those team bonding activities and stuff like that. That is what we really missed out on,” Williams said.

Another big event that the basketball program missed for the first time was their annual kids camp.

Not only is it a big event for the kids in the community, it also is a big fundraiser for the basketball program. It also is a time for the players on the team to interact with some of the younger players.

All of the players in the Comet basketball program came through the kids camp, Williams included.

Being able to give back and teach kids the game of basketball is big for Williams, and missing out on that this year was another setback.

When the season ended back in March, and COVID-19 first began shutting things down, Williams thought that it would be a good thing for his players since they had just come off of a long season.

“When we first started quarantining it was only like a week after the season ended so it was like ‘we needed this’ and then comes May and then June comes and then July comes, and you realize how much you are missing,” Williams said.

“Even that little break from March on up to May would have been great for them to kind of let them get their legs back underneath of them, help heal any of the nicks and injuries and then get back to it, but we missed that,” he added.

Being unable to even get together for any type of workouts has been tough for Williams, his staff and players as the start date for the season gets closer and closer.

Williams has been in constant contact with his players and making sure they are working out and staying in shape.

He knows that their basketball skills will come back quickly, but being able to get back into game shape takes time, so he is hopeful that they will all come back in shape and ready to go when the time comes.

Williams has 12 players returning off of a team that just went to the state tournament for the second year in a row. He mentioned that 12 players is an entire basketball team for some schools, and he is hopeful that the team chemistry off of the court translates on the court.

There are some programs around the state that are already working out and having practices together, and that puts Williams and his staff behind already with being unable to do anything at the moment.

Another thing that may go unnoticed to those on the outside are the missed opportunities to work with some of the new players that are coming into the system from the middle school.

Comets JV head coach Hakeem Pettus teaches at the middle school so he has had the opportunity to get to know a lot of those kids that will be moving up to the high school this year, but they are still missing out on crucial time together.

“We would have those guys over here by now building those relationships, showing them how our guys work out and seeing how tough it is and letting them see the level of commitment and dedication that it takes to be successful, and we are just missing that time,” Williams said.

“From a coach and player standpoint we are missing out on those relationships,” he added.

While the future is still up in the air when it comes to when and if high school sports will be played this winter, Williams and his staff are ready to get their players back on the court and make another run at a state championship whenever they get the OK.

Johnathan Kirland is a sports writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him Follow him on Twitter @JohnathanK_GV