Two-time defending state champion Potomac Falls High School defeated Tabb 63-58 in the state quarterfinals March 3 at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax to earn its third straight trip to the Virginia Division 4 state semifinals.
The victory marked Panther coach Jeff Hawes 250th win at the Sterling school.
“We were left for dead at 11-7 and played pretty awful at the end of January,” Hawes said of his team’s earlier struggle. “We stayed together. We believed.”
Both Tabb and Potomac Falls put on a shooting clinic in the first quarter, combining for 10 3-pointers, including two by Panther freshman Wanya Allen.
“They were shooting lights out,” Hawes said. “Fortunately, we were too.”
Blocks from Region II Division 4 Player of the Year Greg Graves and second team All-District player Matt Galloway helped keep the Panthers in the game defensively. D’Shawn Shorts late 3-pointer pulled the Panthers even with Tabb at 21-21 after one quarter.
The second quarter began with two quick Tabb baskets, including one off a Potomac Falls turnover. The Panthers bounced back and took the lead at 31-29 following a Graves steal and dunk. Tabb would not lead the rest of the way.
The Panthers (21-8) began the second half in a fury, going on a six-point run that included four points from junior Brandon Orbe. After a Tabb basket, Graves went on a scoring run of his own. He poured in seven points before the Tigers could react, putting the Panthers up 47-34 in what would be their largest lead of the game.
Tabb responded, scoring the final nine points of the third quarter to close the gap to 47-43.
Graves dominated the fourth quarter, starting the frame with a baseline 3-pointer. He added another two points just 30 seconds later. A series of fouls by Potomac Falls brought Tabb back in the game, as the Tigers earned seven points from the line in the fourth. But Graves’ explosive fourth quarter, which culminated in 12 points, solidified the Panthers win 63-58.
“We always say, ‘the second half is our half,’” Graves said. “We needed to come out and be more explosive, move like we’re ready to play.”
The second half was certainly pivotal for Graves, who scored 19 of his game-high 27 points after halftime. The 6-foot-7 Mount St Mary’s recruit also posted 13 rebounds in the game.
“Greg is playing with more experience than anyone in the state, boy or girl,” Hawes said. “It’s paying off.”
Orbe contributed 11 points and five rebounds, at times stepping in at the point guard spot for Shorts, who missed most of the week due to illness. Galloway and Allen each added nine points.
Potomac Falls has won 10 of its last 11 games going into the state semifinals.
“Our confidence is peaking,” Graves said.
The Panthers play Christiansburg (26-2) at VCU’s Siegel Center March 5 at 9 p.m.
Potomac Falls 63, Tabb 58
T: Mitchell 22, Baggett 12, Nelson 12, Schiele 7, Willie 5
PF: Graves 27, Orbe 11, Allen 9, Galloway 9, Shorts 5, Shanosky 2
Halfitme: Potomac Falls, 34-32
-All photos by Greg Nash
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