Every time Halifax County and Person’s boys basketball teams square off in the title game of the Gazette-Virginian Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament, a classic game is played.
Wednesday night’s title game between the two programs wasn’t any different.
Regular time wasn’t enough to decide the winner as Person outlasted Halifax in overtime to win the title with a 60-54 victory in front of a packed house.
Person (11-1) took control of the opening frame from the start, using effective free throw shooting in putting together a 7-0 run that gave the Rockets a 56-49 lead on junior Isaiah Smith’s free throws with 1:06 remaining in the game. A goaltending call on a shot from senior Dakii Chandler got Halifax (3-7) back within two possession at 56-51 with 49 ticks on the clock.
Facing the late deficit, the Comets were forced to foul and sophomore Lance Clarke sank the back end of his free throws to push the Rockets’ lead to two possessions with 40 seconds remaining.
Playing in front of its home crowd, in its own tournament, Halifax stayed motivated and pulled within three, 57-54, on Chandler’s 3-pointer with 35 seconds left in the game. That’s as close as the Comets got as the Rockets went 3-for-4 from the free throw line in the final 27 seconds to steal the win and the title.
The last minute of regulation was worth the price of admission as the two sides battled like a pair of heavyweight boxers. Senior KaNyle Canada gave Halifax a 47-43 with his layup off a steal from Chandler with 2:42 left in the contest. Junior Jordan Lunsford followed with a 3-pointer that made it a one-point game with 2:12 on the clock.
That’s where things got interesting as the Rockets turned the ball over but the Comets couldn’t convert on the other end as Smith stepped in and recorded a huge steal. Seconds later, Lunsford was fouled and knocked down the front end of his attempt to knot the score at 47-47 with 49 seconds on the clock. Canada put Halifax back in front with a layup but a Clarke block and steal led to his layup on the other end that tied the game at 49-49 with 10 seconds remaining.
The Comets had a chance to win the game on free throws but couldn’t knock down their attempts, forcing the extra period.
Halifax entered the final frame facing a 41-34 deficit. However, junior Ja’mari Craighead gave his squad a shot to the arm when he took a feed from junior Josh Miller and finished his layup that made it a five-point game. Clarke followed with a layup to push the Rockets’ lead back to seven, but it only served to awaken a sleeping giant as the Comets rattled off 11 straight points to take a 47-43 lead on Canada’s layup. Freshman Darius Hamlett was key in the run, recording a pair of back-to-back blocks. Craighead also played a big role, scoring eight of Halifax’s 11 points over the stretch.
Miller led Halifax with 14 points while Canada dropped 12 and Craighead added 10 to give the Comets three players in double-digit scoring.
Clarke scored a game-high 16 points to pace Person while Smith and Julian Crawley added 14 points apiece.
Davin Wilson is the sports editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.