JAMES CITY — The Warhill High girls basketball team's zone defense has been all but impenetrable much of the season, and opponents rarely have shot well enough from the outside to capitalize against it. Thus, the Lions entered their game against second-place Tabb on Thursday in the Bay Rivers District lead.
So it was little wonder Lions coach Bingo Brungot adopted the philosophy that if the Tigers could beat the 3-2 zone from the outside, he would simply shake their hands afterward. The hand Brungot shook least apologetically following Tabb's 46-38 win at Warhill was Tamia Smith's.
Smith nailed six 3-pointers in scoring a game-high 23 points, including two big ones in the final three minutes. She also made 3 of 4 free throws in the final minute as the Tigers (13-4, 11-3 district) moved into first place this late in the season for the first time in several years.
Tabb is tied for first with Lafayette (12-3, 11-3), which beat Poquoson 56-50 Wednesday. Despite the loss, Warhill (13-3, 10-3) can make it a three-way tie for first if it wins its makeup game Saturday at Smithfield.
"She was amazing," Brungot said of Smith. "We were trying to stop their girls in the middle, but give her credit: She beat us from the outside.
"I thought we did a good job on her in the first half, but we didn't close out on her (in the zone) in the second half."
Both defenses — the Tabb man-to-man and Warhill zone — did a good job on everyone in the first half, which ended with the Lions leading 15-14. But Smith had already shown a sign of things to come, with three first-half 3s, while Kieran McClure (16 points for the game) was leading the way for Warhill.
The offenses heated up for both teams in the third quarter, with McClure hitting a pair of 3s and scoring eight points, while Smith and post player Imani McDowell-Jarmon had five apiece for Tabb. The Tigers led 30-28 going into the final stanza.
Warhill led by a point with three minutes to play, but Brianna Harper passed to Smith, who hit a 3 to give Tabb a 38-36 lead. Raven Royal followed with a steal and basket to increase the Tigers' lead to four points.
Olivia Schulz scored in the lane on a nice pass from Kasey Grainer to pull Warhill back to within two points, but Harper's penetration again set up Smith for an open 3-point attempt. Smith drained it and Tabb led 43-38 with 1:37 to play.
Smith sealed the victory with her free throws as the Lions missed their last four shots.
"Tamia did a good job with her leadership, and I'm proud of her for hitting the big shots," Tabb coach Jason Clarke said. "Imani made big shots, too.
"Warhill is a good team, well-coached, but we played hard on defense and got enough stops."
Smith said, "It's fun to have that kind of (shooting) night. We're so happy about (being in first place) because we were ranked sixth before the season.
"We're proving we can play with all the top teams."
TABB 46, WARHILL 38
TABB (13-4, 11-3): McDowell-Jarmon 8, Royal 7, Smith 23, Harper 8. Totals 16 7-11 46.
WARHILL (13-3, 10-3): Walters 2, Rochard 2, Schulz 9, McClure 16, Epps 1, Grainer 8. Totals 15 4-6 38.
Tabb591616 — 46Warhill3121310 — 38
3-point goals: Tabb 7 (Smith 6, Harper), Warhill 4 (McClure 2, Grainer 2).
O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963.