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It wasn’t supposed to end this way for the No. 5 Velma-Alma Comets at the state tournament.
Instead of joyous celebrations and enthusiastic embraces Thursday afternoon, there was only silent exits and tearful hugs amongst players and family members.
For the second straight year, the Comets found themselves the victims of another close defeat in the state quarterfinals, this time at the hands of No. 7 Ft. Cobb-Broxton, 61-58 at the Sawyer Center on the campus of Southern Nazarene University.
“It was hard to talk to the kids after the game,” V-A coach Kenny Bare said. “I told them I loved them and we prayed. I’ll talk to them more on Monday when I have more time to collect my thoughts. I’m just very emotional right now.”
Perhaps the cruelest of ends came with the final seconds, as V-A senior Dallen Mercer drove the length of the floor and threw up what appeared to be a game-tying half court shot, only to see it fall inches short of the rim.
As the horn sounded, the Mustang fans erupted in celebration, as the Comet fans were forced to endure yet another devastating end to what was a solid season for their team.
V-A though didn’t make things easy as the Comets fought until the bitter end, getting to within two points at 60-58 with five seconds left in regulation.
Multiple times before then, the Comets had gotten to within three points, but Ft. Cobb-Broxton was solid from the free throw line down the stretch, missing only two shots from the charity stripe with less than a minute left.
Many felt the Comets were given a golden opportunity to get back into the game with 3:12 left in the third, as Ft. Cobb-Broxton’s Daniel Collins was called for a personal and technical foul on the same play.
After two made free throws the Comets were up 37-36 with 3:12 left, but the Mustangs were back in front just 27 seconds later.
“They made shots and we didn’t,” Bare said. “All of the scouting reports show their kids didn’t shoot very well. That wasn’t the case tonight especially with the three ball. Our offense wasn’t clicking like it has been the past few weeks, and we paid for it tonight. We couldn’t create a lot of offense with our defense. Hats off to Ft. Cobb though they are a quality team.”
The Mustangs biggest lead of the game came with 5:13 left in the fourth, as they held a 53-43 advantage.
In the first quarter though, it was the Comets who held the advantage, taking a 15-12 lead into the second before Ft. Cobb-Broxton wrangled the lead back at 30-26 at the break.
Going into the fourth, it was advantage Mustangs as they held a 43-41 lead.
In his final game as a Comet, Dallen Mercer registered a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Jaz Gayanich put in 16 points and nine rebounds on the night, with Zac Cable scoring 12 points. Checotah Lynn scored four points, with Dallas Bare putting in three points. L.L. Humphreys and Conner Sullivan each scored two points.
V-A (24-4) will be graduating seniors Ty Dulworth, Dallen Mercer, Dallas Bare, Zac Cable, Checotah Lynn, L.L. Humphreys, Austin Dennis and Tyler Nalley from this season’s squad.
“I’m very proud of these seniors,” Bare said. “They came to practice and wanted to get better, and gave everything they had for us. They’ll be sorely missed.”
Ft. Cobb-Broxton (21-8) was led by Daniel Collins with 16 points followed by Dylan Circles with 15 points. Elijah Collins put in 11 points.