The Tug Valley Panthers basketball team won the Class AA state championship Saturday with a 58-52 win over Bluefield in the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum. The title is the second in Class AA for Tug Valley. The Panthers also won the 1999 state championship. (Photo | Michael Browning)
CHARLESTON -- The Tug Valley Panthers were on fire early, but had to hold on to capture the Class AA state championship Saturday with a hard-fought, 58-52, win over the top-ranked Bluefield Beavers.
The Panthers took a huge, 15-2 lead at the end of the first quarter as they limited Bluefield to only a pair of free throws, but Tug struggled in the second frame and were outscored 16-10. They still held a 25-18 lead at the break.
The Beavers came out in the second half with the momentum and outscored the Panthers 14-12 in the third to cut their deficit to 37-32. The Panthers held on and outpointed Bluefield 21-20 in the final quarter to get the eight-point victory and the state title.
"Last year, when we got beat in the regional, it was our goal to get here," Tug Valley Coach Garland "Rabbit" Thompson said. "Then, once we got here, here was our nemesis, Wyoming East, standing in our way. We were fortunate enough to get by them, then, on the other side of it is Bluefield for the state championship. To me, I think Double-A basketball was as good as triple-A or single-A. I think we've got the best basketball team in the state.
"I was tickled to death there at the end. I was excited and saying 'thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus.' I saw a glimpse of Heaven today."
Mikey Newsome led the Panthers with 17 points, four steals and a rebound.
"This feeling is indescribable," Newsome said. "They couldn't match up with our size. We got a little scare there. We knew they would have a little run in them, but we pulled it out at the end."
Mason Pack poured in 15 points, yanked down 10 rebounds, got two steals and dished off an assist.
"We weren't going to taste defeat again," Pack said. "This is the most amazing feeling I've ever had. This is the greatest way to end your senior season. There at the end, I was thinking 'Oh God, I'm a state champ.'"
Austin Brewer scored 14, grabbed seven rebounds, gave seven assists and got a pair of steals.
"I knew what kind of team we had and what we were capable of," Brewer said. "I told everybody we were the best team in the state. This is what we've worked for ever since we were little kids. We came out and played hard and gave everything we had."
Chuckie White scored five points, grabbed a rebound and got a steal. Richman Vance netted four, reeled in nine boards, gave two assists, blocked two shots and got a steal. Aaron Muncy finished with three points, three assists, two rebounds and a steal. Hayden Sturgell also played for the Panthers.
"Austin Brewer was a warrior today. Every decision he made was almost perfect today," Thompson said. "Mikey Newsome stepped up in the second half and hit a couple of big 3s that kept us going and he had enough in the tank to get us over the top. Aaron Muncy did a tremendous job. His stat line is always about the same. He hit a huge 3 from the corner. He's the consummate team player and unselfish to a fault. And everybody knows about Mason."
Tug Valley outscored Bluefield 32-12 in the paint, 8-6 off the fast break and 5-2 on bench points. The Beavers outpointed Tug 20-13 off turnovers and 10-9 on second-chance buckets.
Tug Valley took an early lead and never allowed Bluefield to tie the game, nor take a lead. The Panthers' largest lead of the game came at the 1:45 mark in the first quarter on White's layup that made it 15-2.
The Panthers shot 44.7 percent from inside the arc, by making 21-of-47 shots. They also made 4-of-13 3-pointers for 30.8 percent and sank 12-of-18 3s for 66.7 percent shooting. Newsome scored nine of his points off of 3-pointers.
Tug Valley outrebounded Bluefield 31-29.
Bluefield was led by sophomore Anthony Eades with a game-high 24 points. He also grabbed two rebounds. Next was Lykel Collier with 14 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals. K.J. Manns netted 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds and got a steal. D.J. Edwards scored two points, grabbed five rebounds and got two steals.
The Beavers sank 22-of-27 free throws for 81.5 percent. They made 14-of-42 deuces for 33.3 percent and 2-of-11 from behind the 3-point arc for 18.2 percent.
The Panthers bring home the gold with a 26-2 record, while Bluefield's season ends with a runner-up trophy and a 26-2 tally.
The state championship is the second for the Panthers, who also won the 1999 state title in double-A.