By Garrett Jones
In front of a full house, Coach Mike Blaine and the Cardinals went to war with rival Clarkson in what would be a nip and tuck game that the Cardinals won 76-71. The Plattsburgh men’s basketball team showed there will be no rolling over late in games and that the team is a force to be reckoned with this year.
The first half was all about getting dirty and second chances for the Cardinals. A minute and 26 seconds into the game sophomore guard Franklin Infante jumped across the hardwood on defense for a loose ball that would end up going off Clarkson senior guard Ryan Miles-Ferguson.
Minutes later with the score knotted at six a piece, senior forward Sheriff Conteh would take a crowd-energizing charge. This would lead to an 8-0 Plattsburgh run.
Clarkson didn’t waste much time making up the difference. Going on a 9-0 run of its own, on the backs of senior Blake Gearhart and junior Garret Delany. These two made up for seven of the nine points.
Whether it was getting to the rim for a layup, kicking it out on a drive or banging a three, it didn’t matter, Conteh and senior Myles Jones were doing it all out there in the first half.
“Trusting each other gave us a lot of confidence,” Conteh said. “Executing and staying locked in helped us down the stretch.” Jones and Conteh combined for 15 of the Cardinals 31 points in the first half.
However, Clarkson kept it close to end the half on the shoulders of junior guard Garret Delany, who had 14 of the Clarkson 29 points including two late threes in the half. These points made sure Plattsburgh didn’t end the half with too much momentum.
Coming into the second half Kevin Tabb was zero for three from the field and had more fouls than points.
“In the first half, I wasn’t aggressive enough coming to the ball,” Tabb said. “But in the second half I had to tell my team I got their back.” Tabb didn’t start the game but he did start the second half and for good reason.
Tabb’s first five points came in back to back possessions on a pull up a three and then a foul on a nice move, getting to the rim and making both free throws. However, this hot streak would be quickly cooled after Tabb got tagged with his third foul and would be subbed out of the game.
As the second half progressed, the back and forth continued and with seven minutes left in the game it was all knotted up at 56 a piece.
As it got later and later in this one, the Cardinals showed they can make plays in big situations.
With just under seven minutes to go, senior Erik Salo got to the rim and put in a layup on a foul. He would complete the “and one” to put Plattsburgh up three. A few possessions later following a score by Clarkson, Salo would hit Tabb for a mid range jumper.
Miles-Ferguson would drop in a layup on the other end for Clarkson. However, Salo would be quick to return the favor on the other end by getting to the rim for a layup of his own to put Plattsburgh up 63-62 with just over four minutes left in the game.
Gearhart would be the go to guy down the stretch for Clarkson. Hitting a jumper and a layup down the stretch putting Clarkson up late in an attempt to put away the Cardinals. However, Tabb and the boys wouldn’t go away.
Tabb would have eight points in the last three minutes of play, including a three pointer that would prove to be the dagger. This came with just over a minute to go in regulation and put the Cardinals up 73-68, making it a two possession game for the first time since the 13 minute mark of the second half when the score was 40-45.
Aside from a late game scare when Tabb attempted to grab the ball with his foot on the baseline to give Clarkson a free possession, the Cardinals closed the door easily on the Golden Knights. The final score would be 76-71 with a clear MVP-level performance by Tabb, who finished with the game with 19 points and seven rebounds coming off the bench.
After the game, Tabb gave much of the credit of the win to the full house crowd.
“It motivated us to go hard because we love to play in front of the Plattsburgh Cardinal crowd,” Tabb said.
Infante added, “There’s a lot to learn from but it feels great to pull the win out to start the season.”
The Cardinals will be traveling to the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts to take on the Trail Blazers on Friday, tip off is at 2 p.m. as Plattsburgh will try to pick up another early season win.