After a slow and timid start highlighted by shooting woes, the Grafton High boys secured a 59-52 comeback win at Tabb in Bay Rivers District play Friday.
Josh Moore scored 18 points, including a buzzer-beating contested jumper at the end of the third quarter to push the Clippers in front for good.
Tabb (10-5) jumped to a 10-2 lead — one of a number of first-half scoring runs — over the Clippers (14-3) as the Grafton players seemed wary of the intense atmosphere.
Early buckets by Tabb’s Nick Thomas (10 points) and Ryan Stover (18 points) staggered the Clippers’ defense. The duo accounted for 12 of Tabb first-quarter points.
Aware of his team’s troubled start, Grafton coach Jeremy Jordan encouraged his team to just “keep chipping away.”
“We have to control tempo for us to be successful,” Jordan said. “We have to make sure we defend and play our good pack-line defense, and I thought we were a half-step slow in the first half – we allowed too much dribble-drive and allowed their shooters to catch the ball in space.”
“Give Tabb a lot of credit: They shot the cover off the ball in the first half, and we really didn’t guard and defend like we normally do.”
The Clippers’ struggling defense gave way to several Tabb scoring runs in the first half – highlighted by transition 3-pointers — that allowed the Tigers to take a 36-28 lead into the break.
Stover kept a hot hand through intermission, drilling an early 3-pointer from the right wing to give the Tigers a double-digit lead to begin the second half.
But the Clippers kept chipping away, as Jordan suggested, and over time they began to find a rhythm. The Clippers were able to get to the free-throw line early and often in the third, which allowed them to slow Tabb’s up-tempo pace. Grafton made 18 of 20 foul shots in the game.
Grafton was able to find its touch from behind the arc — knocking down four of five shots from 3-point range in the third — as the Clippers ended the quarter on an 18-6 run.
The momentum was fueled by Moore, who played a big role for the Clippers in the second-half.
A charging foul with 2:41 remaining in the third began Grafton’s comeback push. On the following possession, Moore converted the first of two Grafton 3-pointers that tied the game at 45.
Moore gave the Clippers the lead entering the fourth quarter, 49-47, by hitting a heavily contested fadeaway from the free-throw line over two defenders as time expired.
“Josh is a special player,” Jordan said of Moore, a guard who tied for the game high with 18 points. “He struggled a bit the first half and we had some guys pick up the slack …, but overall I thought it was just a valiant team effort for us.”
Grafton preserved its lead despite a fourth quarter plagued by sloppy, turnover-ridden play on both teams’ part. With a late 55-52 lead, Grafton forward Brandon Bomboy and Moore sank a pair of free throws apiece to ice the game.
GRAFTON 59, TABB 52
GRAFTON: J. Moore 18, White 4, Nix 6, Bomboy 15, Miller 3, Davis 8, Stutt 2, Ellsworth 3. Totals 16 18-21 59.
TABB: Stover 18, Jansen 9, Myatt 2, Olson 8, Thomas 10, Bell 3, Powell 2. Totals 22 3-5 52.
Grafton 12 16 21 10 —59
Tabb 18 18 11 5 —52
3-point goals: Grafton 9 (Moore 3, Bomboy 3, Davis 2, Miller); Tabb 5 (Stover 4, Bell).