Prep boys: Special season ends on downer for Blue Comets; Eastern Randolph advances

Hakeeme Butler tries to get Asheboro on the board in the first quarter of Thursday night’s loss to Greensboro Smith in the Class 3-A state playoffs. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)

ASHEBORO – Asheboro’s special season in boys’ basketball didn’t come to a fitting conclusion.

That’s what made losing so hard to grasp for the Blue Comets.

Ambushed from the start by Greensboro Smith, Asheboro couldn’t sustain any of its rallies long enough in a 73-46 loss in the second round of the Class 3-A state playoffs Thursday night at raucous Asheboro Recreation Center.

“That’s the thing about this team, we all really care for each other,” senior guard D.J. Headen said. “We’re a really close group.”

So it was a teary-eyed departure for many of the players.

The accomplishments have been notable for the Blue Comets, who made it to the second round for the first time since 2017 and recorded the program’s first 20-win season in seven years.

They’ve done this amid unprecedented circumstances, coming out of a pandemic and then displayed from their home on-campus gym for two seasons.

“To win a conference championship, to win 20 games doing this,” coach Brian Nance said, referring to challenges of irregular practice times and other logistical snags. “It’s really kind of a little bit unbelievable to a point. For what these kids have been through for two years, but really the senior class for four years.”

Then in what became its final game of the season, seventh-seeded Asheboro (20-6) ran into 10th-seeded Greensboro Smith (26-3), which bolted to leads of 11-0 and 20-2 in the West Region game.

“We just came out slow to start,” senior Hakeeme Butler said. “The turnovers killed us.”

The Blue Comets later closed the gap to 24-16, but their deficit grew to 43-25 at halftime. The Golden Eagles began the second half on a 13-0 run, though Asheboro answered by notching the final nine points of the quarter.

“We kept trying to attack them at different angles,” Headen said.

“We just got punched in the face early, that big run,” Nance said. “They took it to us a little bit and we didn’t respond very good early on. Made some good runs.”

Butler’s 20 points and Camden Walker’s 17 points paced Asheboro.

The Blue Comets went 10-0 in regular-season play in the Mid-Piedmont Conference for one of their accomplishments. Headen said he hopes the team is considered one of the best in school history.

“A great season,” Butler said. “We’ve all been together for this. I’m proud of my boys.”

Nance, a veteran coach, had a similar reaction. This was the second season – and ideally the final season – that Asheboro plays home games downtown as renovations take place on campus. Gym capacity was reached and some fans were turned away for the state-playoff game.

“The kids put the time in and bought in to what we’ve tried to do and we couldn’t be more proud of them,” Nance said. “They believed in what they were doing. We just ran into a better basketball team.”

Class 2-A

At Reidsville, undefeated Reidsville pulled away for an 81-66 victory.

Trinity (21-8) trailed 37-33 points at halftime but couldn’t keep up. The Rams (23-0) benefitted from a 28-11 third-quarter advantage.

Class 1-A

At Ramseur, Pierce Leonard scored 20 points and third-seeded Eastern Randolph rolled past 14th-seeded Avery County 75-60.

On Saturday, the Wildcats (26-2) play host to sixth-seeded Robbinsville (23-5), which in the playoffs has won 46-45 vs. Mountain Island Charter and 51-49 vs. Swain County.

Eastern Randolph went up 42-24 by halftime against Avery County (18-10).

Davonte Brooks posted 18 points and Timothy Brower had 16 points for the Wildcats.

By Bob Sutton