Tug Valley wins, makes Class A final
CHARLESTON - A little bit of physicality and a strong defense helped get Tug Valley rolling in a 54-41 win over Tucker County in the Class A semifinals.
"Chippy" was the word used by Tug Valley coach Garland Thompson to describe the game in the second half as both teams fought to the end to advance to Saturday's championship.
In the end, a physical turn in the second half turned a tight game into a wider margin as the Panthers advanced to a state championship for the second-straight year.
Last season, the Panthers won the title as a member of Class AA before dropping in classification for the 2012-13 year.
"I don't know if we had our 'A' game, but I thought our kids battled and fought and scratched and dug it out," Thompson said. "I'm very proud of them."
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, an exchange on both ends of the court between Tug Valley's Mikey Newsome and Tucker County leader Tyler Snyder led to a double-foul being called on both.
It started when Snyder drove to the basket and was called for a walk. He thought he was pushed and on the opposite end, he put his head in Newsome's stomach defending tight.
Newsome gave a swim move to break free and caught Snyder in the head before Snyder went to the floor on a Newsome screen, resulting in the double-foul call and both coaches being brought briefly to center-court.
Newsome attributed the physical play to both teams trying to make a championship and even joked that it wasn't the first time an opponent had put their head in his stomach this season.
"That's actually not the first time," Newsome said. "It's happened before. I didn't want to catch him (in the head). I was just trying to get away. It got chippy, but that's the battle."
The double-foul seemed to awaken the Panthers' defense as the team got a steal and layup from Aaron Muncy before another layup by Thomas Baisden on the inside opened a 43-30 lead. Muncy finished with five steals and was a problem for Tucker County throughout.
Tucker County was able to get the lead down to eight but with the Mountain Lions forced to chase the ball and go after steals, the Panthers used solid ball movement to get Baisden a pair of finishes underneath to seal the win.
Baisden finished with 18 points to lead Tug Valley - many of which came off of layups as a result of the court vision of the Panthers' guards. On his final basket, Baisden climbed the ladder to catch a pass from Muncy and went up for the finish.
"Anytime I score, it's off of a pass from them," Baisden said. "I don't get the ball in the post and score. It's from them and I'm wide open most of the time. Aaron threw that pass and it's hard to catch. You have to be ready for it."
Tucker County had a chance to take the lead early in the second half but a pair of missed opportunities left the Mountain Lions trailing, and it didn't take long for the Panthers to capitalize.
Newsome catapulted Tug Valley to a double-digit lead midway through the third. The Tug Valley senior took a pass from Austin Brewer and drained a 3-pointer from the corner then stole a pass and went the distance for a three-point play to push the lead to its first double-digit margin at 37-25.
"They cut the lead to one or may have tied it...," Thompson said. "We got a turnover, a couple of steals. Our pressure is what's going to have us in a better flow to score points."
Tug Valley raced out to a 16-7 lead as Tucker County surprised everyone by coming out in a zone. Once the Mountain Lions switched back to a man-to-man, the Panthers looked a bit discombobulated.
The Panthers had just one field goal in the second quarter - that coming on an offensive rebounds and tip-in by Corey Dillon with 53 seconds left to give Tug Valley a 23-20 lead at the break.
Ian Nichols finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds to lead Tucker County, but Snyder was limited to nine points in the loss.
TUCKER COUNTY 7 13 10 11 - 41: Snyder 9, Lewis 2, Nichols 26, Mason 2, Kidwell 2
TUG VALLEY 16 7 14 17 - 54: Muncy 8, Newsome 16, Brewer 6, T. Baisden 18, Dillon 2, Sturgell 2, Au. Baisden 2