After battling through two tough games in the Class 2A, Area 16 tournament, some might have wondered if this Tanner team had what it takes to keep the Rattlers' long Northwest Regional tournament streak intact.
It didn't take long for the Tanner players to emphatically answer that question in the affirmative. The Rattlers raced to an early lead and routed Sulligent 79-53 in the sub-regional round to advance to the Northwest Regional for the 21st consecutive year. The last time the Rattlers failed to appear in Hanceville was 1999.
“Every year it seems to be a different guy, or a different two or three guys that step up come tournament time,” Tanner coach Chris Whitt said. “It's really hard for me to put my finger on it. I kind of threw that up to them at practice, telling them they didn't want to be the ones to break the streak for us. This group of seniors definitely didn't. They were focused tonight to not let that happen.”
One of those seniors, DaShaun McNabb, got Tanner going early. McNabb scored 12 points in the first quarter to help the Rattlers roll to a 24-9 lead. Tanner expanded the lead to 41-20 at halftime and blew the game wide open in the third quarter by outscoring Sulligent 21-8.
“DaShaun McNabb set the tone for us tonight,” Whitt said. “He hit some shots early on that got Sulligent off their game real quick. He got us off to a big start and it snowballed from there.”
McNabb finished the game with a team-high 22 points, while fellow seniors Malik Atkins and J.J. Jones added 20 and 13 points, respectively.
Whitt said the third-quarter run was important to prevent Sulligent from having any hope of coming back.
“Three years ago, we went down there and had a 40-20 lead at halftime and had to fight to hold on to win,” Whitt said. “I knew they wouldn't go away, so it was good for us to jump on them in the third quarter to end any comeback hopes.”
Tanner will play Vincent 7:30 p.m. Friday in the semifinals of the Class 2A Northwest Regional.
“Twenty-one years in a row is kind of hard to believe,” Whitt said. “I'm proud of the guys for being able to keep that streak going.”