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FBVA Orlando Comets!!!

 

 





 

Welcome to the home site of the Orlando Comets, the premier girls AAU basketball organization in Florida, and a Nike affiliated team.    The Comets were founded in 1999 with a view towards expanding Orlando's presence in girls basketball.      Since that time the Comets have won every single Florida AAU state championship they have played.     The Comets Red team has won two YBOA National Championships, one AAU National Championship and has placed in the top 10 nationally for six years.    The Comets have three AAU All-Americans, one McDonald's team All-American and a growing number of high D1 signees.      What started as a single team in 1999 has become 12+ teams in various age groups with a burgeoning national presence.     The Comets have revolutionized girls basketball in Florida.

This site documents that success story.    The site is configured in three parts:

1 New news is reported on this page and also in Inside Stuff!!!
2 Old news, rosters, kudos and schedules are reported in Inside Stuff!!!

 

 



Tuesday, April 27
Comets Red 14U Picking Up Steam

 

Maddie Brantley Driving to the Hole(KB - 04/27/10)  So, OK, I've had a chance to get a good solid look at the Comets Red 14U in the past month.

Good, solid team.   Tough.   Scrappy.     Has all the tools in place to be a contender this year, a presence next year, and a national calibre team in the summer of 2012 if the core players stay together.

But let's digress and show the logical steps that led to these conclusions.

This Comets team is a merger of prior rivals.    Several of the current starters played for the Orlando Thunder last year, a fierce rival of the Red 13U team.    The two teams slugged it out early and often last year, with the Thunder finally gaining the upper hand at the AAU tourney in Clearwater.   Ultimately, the Florida Angels out-did both teams and won the state championship.

The Thunder decided to bring their team over to the Comets organization in 2010.    At the tryouts in February, only two Comets Red players from 2009 remained with the team--Laniere Coleman and Corrie Duren.     A few players left altogether.    The remainder decided to play with older Comets teams.

So far the merger has gone seamlessly.   Duren has teamed with Madison Brantley and Kayla Monsanto to form a tenacious (if height-challenged) guard corps.  Chelsey Springs, the most athletic player on the team, plays swingman and forward.     Coleman holds down the bottom in the paint.

There isn't any dropoff in production when Haley Oyarzabal, Chenya Sealey, Celeste Martin and Lillian Garvin sub-in.   Dee Gillard and Caitlyn Coleman are being developed as guards.

The Comets Red 14U have only lost to one team this year:    The Davie Lady Broncos.

But the Comets have lost to the Broncos FOUR times.

Each loss was a last minute heartbreaker.    In each game the Comets blew fourth quarter leads.   The last three games were decided by foul shots in the waning seconds.   The Comets missed theirs.    The Broncos made theirs.

The upshot of all this is that the Comets have won two gold medals so far this season and two silver medals.    Both silvers were suffered at the hands of the Broncos.

And while the pundits who assess these games intone "We can beat that team...", it hasn't happened yet.     An 0-4 record against the same team speaks for itself.

I've covered a team that couldn't win close games before.   The 2001-2005 Orlando Miracle had a 93% losing record in games that were decided by 10 points or less.    I found this troubling, since the Miracle's overall winning percentage was 95%.   Most of their wins were blowouts.    The 5% of games they lost were usually close games against tough teams.   The effect of such losses to comparable teams was acutely painful, I remember, and usually due to easily rectifiable coaching decisions.

I distinctly remember one game at YBOA 11U Nationals in 2002.     The Miracle had blown a 5 point lead against their hated rivals, the Palm Beach Waverunners and trailed 29-28.     The Miracle had the ball out of bounds at the far end of the court, on the sidelines.   There were 4 seconds to play.    Remember, these were 11 year old girls.    The Waverunners were implementing a withering backcourt press.

What's the play?

Anyone should know.    You fake the pass into the back corner, allow the defense to over-commit, then send your fastest player on a flyer and whip an overhead baseball pass upcourt for a layup.

The Miracle coach had her player pass the ball into the deep backcourt corner and then relied on an 11 year old girl to dribble the length of the court in the teeth of the press.    In 4 seconds.   Of course, the Miracle committed a turnover and lost an entirely winnable game.

Such egregious mistakes have not occurred against the Broncos, though.    The Broncos have been together since they were fifth graders.   They know how to win close games.    Their players hit key shots.    The Comets missed every opportunity to drive the dagger home against the Broncos.     Such nervous play can be attributed to youth and inexperience.    For the time being, anyway.

But something happened this past weekend which reminded me of painful Miracle losses past.

The Red team competed in the 15U division at the Lakeland Fire Shootout this past weekend.     After blazing a trail through their pool rivals, the Red team squared off against the older Comets Blue 15U in the semi-finals.     The Comets Blue 15U is no match for the Red 14U team.    The Red team jumped on them early using crisp passes and tough defense.     With three minutes to play in the game, the Red team led by 15 points by applying constant defensive pressure and attacking with reckless abandon.

Suddenly, the tenor of the game changed.    The Red team started holding the ball and milking the clock.    Predictably, turnovers resulted.    Also, the Blue team started deliberately fouling to stop the clock.     AND THE RED TEAM WAS CALLED FOR A NUMBER OF WHOLLY INEXPLICABLE FOULS, TOO.

Long story short, in a span of 2:15, the Red team's hard earned lead went from 15 points to 3 points.   Ultimately, the Red team won by 5.    But easing up off the throttle turned a comfortable win into a nailbiter.   All of the Blue team's points came at the foul line.

WHY?!?!?

In the championship game against the Miami Bulls, the two teams sparred on even terms in the first half.     Both teams sought to engage their half court sets.     Both teams ran Overload and fired skip passes cross court for open jumpers.   Both teams tried and failed to establish the post.   The score was 18-18 at halftime.   

In the third quarter the Comets came out smoking.   They ratcheted up the intensity, made steals and whipped nice outlet passes upcourt for easy layups.   The Bulls rolled back on their heels and finally tumbled over and died.     The Comets led by the score of 38-23 entering the fourth quarter.

Lo and behold, here comes the Milkclock Offense again.   I went outside to take a call.    When I came back in, the Comets were only up by six.   And it got worse.   The Bulls crept to within three points on several occasions, and had possession, and missed open looks.   And still the Comets held the ball instead of ruthlessly pressing their advantage.

With 1.1 seconds to play in the game the Comets led 39-36 and had the ball out of bounds deep in enemy territory.   Did they pass the ball into the corner, turn it over and allow a game tying three point shot, as the Miracle would have done?

No.

Coach Springs properly had his player loft a baseball pass to the far end of the court.   The Bulls stole it, took one dribble and the clock ran out.   Smart play.

But I DO note that the Comets were outscored 13-1 in the fourth quarter after besting the Bulls 20-5 in the third.    We seem to be making a habit out of winning the first three quarters of games and getting smoked at crunch time.   The Broncos have already shown us the fallacy of such a strategy.    The Milkclock Offense is a recipe for disaster.

One can make the argument that these Comets have to learn the Milkclock Offense sometime.   Why not now?  

It's a strong argument.   I actually wouldn't mind seeing a nice implementation of Oviedo's Four Corners offense which is designed to frustrate teams into making mental mistakes and punish them with easy layups.     But the Milkclock Offense is not that.

Madison Brantley was named Tournament MVP for her scintillating work in Lakeland.    Kayla Monsanto, Lillian Garvin, and Corrine Duren were named to the All-Tournament team.

Next weekend the Red team gets a shot at the defending state champion Florida Angels when Disney's Spring Fling kicks off on Friday.



Monday, March 15
Comets Red 14U Win Tampa Tourney of Champions

 

Cori Duren scores an AND-1(KB - 03/14/10)   The Comets Red 14U completed a three game sweep at the USSSA Tampa Tournament of Champions this weekend and won the ninth grade division with a stirring 42-34 victory over Manatee PAL.    In their first trip out of the box this year, the younger Comets put on an astonishing display of grit and determination in the face of daunting odds.   The Comets 14s have lost their two best players, picked up six new players, and only practiced once.

Normally such a confluence would herald a moral victory at best, and maybe a bunch of mumbled excuses for failure.

But these Comets have something the previous iterations of this team seemed to lack--downright toughness.       Let's be upfront.    Manatee PAL had a better team than we did.    Their girls were faster, more athletic and obviously had a few plays in their repertoire.    They'd been practicing.

After falling behind early, the Comets regrouped with a collective growl and an attitude overhaul.    Led by Madison Brantley's and Cori Duren's dogged attention to the passing lanes and Laniere Coleman's angry dominance of the paint, the Comets battled back and took small leads into each of the next three quarters.    The Comets did not take a single defensive possession off the entire game.  

And while the Comets' offensive game looked ragged at times, the defensive pressure caused the faster Manatee girls to waver and finally buckle late in the third quarter, when the Comets took a 12 point lead on Kayla Monsanto's short jumper from the wing.

Manatee did manage a short-lived comeback in the fourth quarter.    They cut the lead to six points with 2 minutes to play and had several opportunities to cut it further.    But each time the Comets came up with a defensive stop and, on a couple of occasions, padded their lead.  

This game had more floor burns than any Comets game I've witnessed previously.    Consequently, I'm willing to say this is the best team we've had in this age group.   The addition of Brantley, Monsanto, Haley Oyarzabal, Chelsy Springs and Chenya Sealy has added a toughness that this team previously lacked.    None of these kids are superstars in their own right.    But collectively they have what it takes to create a team IDENTITY and a REP.

And it's about damn time, too.     I was getting tired of explaining why this team was soft.

In pool play, the Comets dominated two non-descript tenth grade teams.    The games were sloppy and unremarkable, save for the gutty defense displayed by the Red team.   Coach Springs substituted five and five in the first game, then toyed with various lineups in the second.   But in the championship game he went with his top players.

Chelsy Springs led the Comets with 12 points in the championship game.    Coleman contributed 10 points and 7 blocked shots.    Both girls were selected to the All-Tournament team.     Cori Duren was selected as the tourney MVP.

I want to suggest that leaving Madison Brantley off the All-Tournament team was something of a slight.    Brantley led the Comets with 15 points in our win over South Georgia.    She posted six points in the finale, but her defensive contributions were substantial.   Both Brantley and Duren posted more steals than points.    And when I say they had steals, they went and actually stole the ball.     The other team didn't just hand it to them thru sheer incompetence, as is often the case.    

Brantley is a player who bears watching.

The Comets Red 14U aren't scheduled to play again for a month.    This seems a shame.    It's an unnecessary waste.    Let's see if we can't get this team into the FBVA Challenge two weekends hence or, failing that, at least onto the FBVA schedule against boys.

I absolutely LOVE hardhat basketball.     And, for the first time in several years, I'm excited about the season.



Monday, March 8
What's the Plan for the Comets?

(KB - 03/08/10) OK, what's the story with the Comets this year?

Since the summer of 2008, this once dominant franchise has abandoned its historical player development techniques and has adopted the recruit-the-latest-and-the-greatest strategy of other teams.

How has this worked out? Well, lets look at the facts.

The Comets started out as a 10U team known as the Cool Waves. They had Brooke Thomas, Briyanna Blair, Jacky Nikic, Denisse Marquez and several other notable local players. They dominated the state up until 2003, when they were forced to reckon with the upstart Orlando Lightning and the Clearwater Heatwave, who'd merged in an effort to take down the queens. Political infighting on that Lightning/Heatwave team undermined their efforts however, and their coach called Comets Coach Jack Givens about yet another merger. From this merger the Comets picked up Krystal Thomas, Asia Wilson and Sthefany Thomas. These players made the regionally dominant Comets into a national power. By 2006, the Comets were National Champions.

I would argue that the Comets were even better in 2007. They added Kelsey Assarian, Jennifer George, Ashley Jones, Andrell Smith, Andrea Smith, Cassie Peoples, Chandler McCabe and Erin Knight to a roster that returned Alexa Deluzio, Brooke Thomas, Sasha Chaplin and Jordan Coleman. Every single one of these players signed with major D1 schools, something that's never been accomplished by any team in Florida. If not for Jenn George's season ending injury, I think this team could and should have won both AAU Nationals and Nike Nationals.

Since then, though, the Comets have struggled at the national level. They have no significant wins against their primary state rivals--Team Breakdown and Tallahassee Essence. Last year the Jacksonville Rams dethroned the Comets as state AAU champs after a 10 year run. The Comets have been unceremoniously dismissed from Nike Nationals without any hardware for two consecutive years now.

What has changed? Has the talent dried up? Has the coaching become tepid?

Certainly the loss of Cassie Peoples and Ashley Jones in 2008 contributed to a weak travel season. And the loss of Alexis Prince and Kayla Brewer in 2009 further dissipated the team. One can argue that these critical personnel losses are due to recruiting oversights by the coaches.

I submit that the Comets have stepped away from their bread and butter. The dominant Comets teams from the past were built in the younger age groups. They were not built by a player cattle-call tryout, a month's worth of practices, and a trip to Boo Williams. As I have said repeatedly, what the Comets are doing now is a recipe for failure. Mediocrity is the best outcome from the current plan.

Even if it were possible to recruit and keep the best players coming out of Orlando, national calibre teams are not built in three months. National calibre teams are created by playing against FBVA boys and older girls teams AND LOSING. The experience gained is invaluable. The current Comets Red 16U hasn't done that. And they won't. Not this year, anyway.

The Comets Red 15U have a good solid chance though. Those girls have been playing together since they were 12 year olds playing for the Edge and Dee Brown. None of them showed up for the Comets tryouts last weekend. They made it plain the team didn't have any spots open for new members. Looking over their roster, I have no doubts that the 15U team can beat the 16U team, based on sheer chemistry.

What will happen next year when the 15U team becomes the 16U flagship team? Will Al Honor cede his charges to Jack and Garfield? Why? Wouldn't that, too, interfere with team chemistry?

The resurgence of the Comets Red 15U gives Jack and Garfield the chance to return to the Comets' roots. Take over the 13U Comets, Jack and Garfield. Build a champion from the basics instead of cobbling together some disparate 16U talent and hoping for the best. The results from the past two summers isn't going to change without a fundamental change in the process.  



Tuesday, March 2
Rams Win 2010 FHSAA 6A Championship!!!!

 

(03/02/10)   The Lake Mary Rams redeemed themselves for the past two missed opportunities at the FHSAA 6A title this past Saturday with a 49-40 win over Miami Lourdes.     The Rams fell two points short in 2009.   And I don't even wanna talk about 2008, when they clearly had the best 6A team in Florida and lost in the regional semis.

I still haven't recovered from that debacle enough to look at the tape.

But the 2010 Rams, led by second year coach Rick Weyers, expunged those demons and brought the championship home to its rightful owners.   The Rams completed a scintillating 32-1 season and earned its third state championship since 1998.

The championship game itself was rather anti-climactic.    Certainly, it wasn't as dramatic as the semi-final against South Broward.    In that game the Rams trailed for all but 15 seconds of the game.    South Broward jumped out to an 11-2 first quarter lead, allowed the Rams to close to within a point in the third quarter, then seemingly put the game away with a 10-0 run.

With four minutes to play, South Broward led 35-25.   Lake Mary looked whipped.   Their shots weren't falling.   Their game lacked energy.

Sarah Taylor took the game in hand.    She drove the lane and banked in a spinning shot.     Then she stole the ball off the ensuing possession and made a layup.    The downtrodden Rams faithful perked up a bit.

The Bulldogs came downcourt and missed a shot.   The Rams rebounded.   They worked the offense until the ball found its way to Peggy Smith, who drained a triple from the corner.    That shot drew the Rams to within 3 points at 35-32.   It also set South Broward's teeth to chattering.    It was a one possession game with 2 minutes to play.

The two teams fumbled around aimlessly for several possessions, committing fouls and turnovers.    But the Rams chipped away at the lead from the free throw line.   Finally, Taylor swished a free throw to give the Rams their first lead, 36-35, with about 48 seconds to play.

The teams jousted about again for a bit.    Then the Rams sent Krystal Saunders to the line, shooting two, with 13.7 seconds in the game.   Saunders hit the first but missed the second.   Lake Mary rebounded and pushed the ball upcourt.   Weyers called a timeout with 5.5 seconds to play and set up a shot for, surprisingly, Morgan Jones, who'd bricked her four previous attempts.

Did she flinch?     NOT TUH-DAY.    Morgan caught the inbounds pass, juked right and stepped back into a thirty foot shot that laced the nets as the buzzer sounded.    The Lake Mary girls rushed the floor in jubilation, and dogpiled Morgan seven players deep.    It took some salty language from the bottom of that dogpile to get the Rams players to realize they had yet another game to play.

Taylor led the Rams with 19 points and 9 rebounds.   Jones put up 10 points and 5 rebounds against South Broward.

In the championship game, Jones picked up where she left off.    Morgan drained her first triple on the Rams first possession, thus setting the tone for the game.    "I GOTS ta have it today, ladies.     You'll excuse my ambivalence towards your youthful ambitions."    And she proceeded to pile up numbers reminiscent of Brittany Waters' 32 point outburst against Norland in the 2007 6A championship game.     Jones knocked down shots from every point on the court.   Here she was knocking down a shot from the elbow.    Here she was driving the baseline.    Now she's pump faking and going to the hole.

The Bobcats had little answer for her.   They just hung on for the ride.

After Lake Mary took a 30-23 lead, however, the momentum seemed to change.   Lourdes hit consecutive three-pointers and actually went ahead 35-30.     The Rams battled back and took a 41-38 lead deep into the fourth quarter.     Lourdes guard Takia Brooks promptly sliced that lead to a single point with a driving layup.

At this point, everyone in the gym was sweating.    Not me.    For some reason, I was fairly confident the game was over.   Jones was scoring at will.    The Bobcats didn't appear capable of imposing their will on the game.   Brooks was a tough customer, but the Bobcats didn't look as if they KNEW they could win.    Lake Mary DID look as if they were confident in the outcome.   I dunno.   Sometimes its just in how the players carry themselves.    Body language counts.

Anyway, Weyers called for the Spread offense in which one player (Jones) drives to the hole.    If the defense sags there's a shooter on the wing.   If not, Jones is 6'2".   She shoots a layup or draws a foul.

Sure enough, Lourdes' defense sagged.    Jones whipped a pass to Danielle White in the left corner.    White drained the three.    It's a four point game with 1:17 to play.

I don't mind saying, at this point, I thought Jones should have continued to the hole and drawn the foul on that play.    When White rose up to take the shot, I screamed "NOOOO!!!!!!!!'.      My only outburst of the game.    I'm not a big fan for the three point shot in Lakeland.

But she hit the shot, so my reservations proved wrong.

Lourdes came downcourt and missed a shot.   Lake Mary rebounded.   Lourdes was forced to foul.   This happened on the next four possessions.    Lake Mary racked up 5 late points from the stripe and cemented the victory.

As the final buzzer sounded, the Lake Mary players raced out onto the floor, dancing.   No dogpiles this time.     This win wasn't luck.

 

Jones finished with 30 points and was the consensus 6A MVP.     I saw all the 6A games and would add these players to my All-Tournament team:     Takia Brooks, Krystal Saunders, Sarah Taylor, Sydnei McCaskill and Alexis Brown.

Speaking of McCaskill and Brown, the two freshmen nearly made it an all Central Florida finale.    Dr. Phillips battled Lourdes tooth and nail and held a 3 point edge late in the game.     That's when Brown fouled out.   Lourdes scored again to make it a one point game.    DP decided to stall.    McCaskill dribbled 30 seconds off the clock, seemingly unsure of whom to pass the ball to.   Her running mate was on the bench.       When she did finally pass, the ball skittered out of bounds.      DP was able to make a defensive stop on the ensuing play, but Lourdes pressured them into calling timeout.    Brooks stole the inbound pass, drove upcourt, hit the layup and drew the foul.     Lourdes never trailed again.

I felt so bad for my girl Sydnei, who played her heart out in her first trip to the big stage.   Three years ago I pointed to Syd and gave everyone here fair warning.       This won't be the last time you see this youngster in Lakeland.



Saturday, October 20
Comets Lead Florida in D1 College Signees

 


Player Bio Class Team School
Krystal Thomas 6'4" C 2007 Red Duke
Briyanna Blair 5'9" G 2007 Red Miami
Sthefany Thomas 5'9" G 2007 Red Clemson
Jacky Nikic 5'10" G 2007 Black Dartmouth
Jelana Childs 6'2" C 2008 Blue Kansas State
Gabby Claxton 5'8"G 2006 Red Bryant College
Desiree Diaz 5'8"F 2006 Red DBCC
Brittany Hardy 5'8" G 2008 Blue Jacksonville
Jessica George 5'7" G 2008 Blue Jacksonville
Tierra Brown 5'6" G 2007 Red Stetson
Jaime Givens 6'1" F 2007 Red FAU
Sharece Taft 5'11" F 2006 Red Dodge CC
Brittany Carannante 5'7" F 2007 Black Stetson
Tonia Gerty 5'3" 2007 Blue College of Charleston
Trinity Robinson 5'8" 2007 Black Prairie View
Chelsea Pennick 5'11" 2007 Black FAMU
Laquita Curry 6'0" 2007 Blue SCC
Kelsey Assarian 6'1" 2008 Red Texas A&M
Samantha Shields 5'9" 2007 Red UCF
Brittany Waters 6'1" 2007 Blue Wake Forest
Alexa Deluzio 5'9" 2008 Red Florida State
Jennifer George 6'1" 2009 Red Florida
Lyllique Roman 5'8" 2008 Blue Stetson
Christina Carruth 6'1" 2008 Blue Tampa
Jessica Bivins 5'6" 2008 Fusion Stetson
Brooke Thomas

 5'4"

 2008

 Red

Wake Forest

Aisha Patrick 5'6" 2008 Blue UCF
Christy Rivera

 5'8"

 2008

 Blue

SCC

Brianna Lollis

 5'6"

 2008

 Blue

 St. Leo

Andrea Smith

 5'8"

 2008

 Red

 USF (GCCC)

Andrell Smith

 5'8"

 2008

 Red

 USF (GCCC)

Jordan Coleman

 5'11"

 2008

 Red

 Vanderbilt

Asia Wilson

 5'6"

  2008

  Blue

 FIU

Sasha Chaplin 

  6'2"

 2008

 Red

 Indiana

Ayiesha Vickers

 5'11"

 2008

Fusion 

 Stetson

Brittney Terry

 5'8"

 2007

 Blue

SCAD 

Kourtney Berry

 5'7"

 2008

 Blue

 Tampa

Marquise Lee

 5'7"

 2008

 Fusion

 Lynn

Tiara Jackson

 5'6"

 2008

 Blue

 Alabama A&T

Lindsay Watson 5'6" 2009 Red Hofstra
Erin Knight 5'9" 2009 Red FIU
Selena Archer 6'4" 2010 Red Miami

 Chandler McCabe

 6'3"

 2008

 Red

 Providence




Thursday, April 6
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