Once Cy Cole’s ‘and-one’ finish gave Tabb a 9-7 lead with 4:05 to play in the first quarter, the Tigers never looked back. A combination of stingy defense, balanced offense and a little more defense was the formula for Tabb as they rolled past Grafton 62-42 Friday night.
“I thought it was going to be a very close game,” Tabb head coach Doug Baggett said after the game. “We played good defense and controlled the boards for the most part and that was the difference.”
Tabb (14-4, 12-2 BRD) entered the contest with a three-and-a-half game lead over second place Grafton (10-8, 8-6 BRD), before making a statement that the district title goes through them.
“This is a big one,” said Cy Cole, who led the Tigers with 16 points. “We wanted to show them we were the team to beat.”
Their message was loud and clear. Tabb’s matchup zone kept Grafton out of sorts all night while forcing 28 turnovers.
“Our defensive intensity,” Cole said when asked what made the difference. “We knew they could shoot threes, so we wanted to make sure we got to the shooters, boxed out and got rebounds.”
For Tabb, it was their second blowout in as many games this season over their cross-town rivals. And with just two losses in the district and only four games remaining, the regular season title appears to be theirs for the taking.
The Tigers jumped out to a 16-8 first quarter lead before Robbie Panasuk’s three-pointer at the buzzer trimmed the lead to 16-11.
Tabb turned up the defensive pressure in the second quarter and forced 10 of the Clippers’ 28 turnovers to extend their lead 34-18 at the half.
Grafton tried to equal that pressure in the second half to spark a comeback, but the Tigers’ execution was flawless. They worked the ball around the perimeter effectively while eating significant minutes off the clock. A 12-16 mark from the free throw line in the fourth quarter also helped seal the victory.
Elijah Moore led the Clippers with 12 points and Joe Cibrin scored 10. The loss dropped Grafton into a three-way tie for second place along with York and Lafayette.
For Tabb, Cole led with 16 points and Patrick Corbett added 12. Shaquille Rodney chipped in with 11 as well.
Their defense was defining, but Tabb’s offensive balance was key and, according to Baggett, has been crucial all season long.
“We have two guys that average 10 and everybody else is bunched up between six and nine [points],” said Baggett. “This is the most unselfish group I’ve ever had. They don’t care who gets the points, they like each other and go out and play every night.
It’s just been a blessing all season.”
Poquoson( 10-6, 8-4 BRD) has the only mathematical chance of catching Tabb down the stretch. And next Friday at Poquoson the Tigers will get the opportunity to send the Islanders the same message they delivered to the Clippers Friday night in front of a jam-packed Grafton High.
“Going down the stretch, you’ve got to be ready for anything,” Cole said.
“Our next two games are big games,” added Baggett. “My nerves had been a wreck all week and next week I’m sure will be the same.”