They were right.
The Panthers committed exactly 20 turnovers in their semifinal round game against Wyoming East Friday night in the Class AA state tournament and lost to the Warriors, 65-49.
The Warriors scored 18 points off of Tug Valley turnovers and center Gentry Shrewsbury scored 29 points to lead Wyoming East into its third straight state title game.
“We probably forced some things,” Tug Valley Coach Garland “Rabbit” Thompson said. “Wyoming East’s defense is very good. They’re a very physical basketball team and that might have affected us just a little bit. I kept telling them we’re okay and we’ll have a run, but we never did get a run until right there with a minute to go. We did turn the ball over a lot, but you make mistakes and you live and you learn and you go on.”
The Panthers fell behind in the first period and were outscored 11-4 in the first quarter.
Wyoming East continued to build their lead in the second quarter, outpointing the Panthers 21-18 to go into the locker room at the break up 32-22.
Wyoming East went on a 10-0 scoring run to start the second half as they built a 42-22 cushion.
“The score was 32-22 at halftime and if we got off to a good start right there we’re right back in it,” Thompson said. “They went on a 10-0 run and that put a dagger in our heart. From there it’s catchup.”
The Panthers dug themselves a hole they couldn’t climb out of in the third quarter when they were outscored 22-11 by the Warriors to go into the fourth frame trailing by 21, 54-33.
At one point in the third period, Wyoming East led by as many as 26. In the final stanza, Tug Valley made a brief rally and even outscored the Warriors 16-11, but it wasn’t enough to erase the huge deficit and upset Wyoming East. Tug was led by Austin Vance with 18 points. Nathan Brewer and Michael Evans each scored 10 points, while Channing Preece was limited to just six points and Zach Preece chipped in five.
Tug Valley made just 16-of-44 2-point attempts for 36.4 percent shooting and netted only 2-of-14 3-point attempts for a dismal 14.3 percent. Tug started off the game with a 2-0 lead when Evans hit a jumper at the 5:48 mark, but Wyoming East tied the game with two Shrewsbury foul shots. The Panthers then took their final lead of the game at the 5:13 mark when Vance hit a pair of foul shots to make it 4-2.
Wyoming East then took control of the game and went on a 9-0 scoring run that put them ahead for good. Wyoming East outscored Tug Valley 24-20 in the paint, 18-9 off of turnovers and 14-9 on second-chance buckets.
The Warriors’ bench players outscored the Panthers’ bench, 8-5.
Tug Valley outscored the Warriors 6-2 on fast break points. Wyoming East was led in scoring by Shrewsbury and Alex Webb scored 14. Next was Kody McCracken with eight points, while Travis Smith scored seven, Anthony Fuller added six and Evan Muscari finished with a foul shot. The Warriors shot 40 percent from inside the 3-point arc, making 18-of-45 attempts.
From outside the arc, Wyoming East made 5-of-16 shots for 31.3 percent. A big difference in the game came at the free-throw line.
The Panthers sank 15-of-19 foul shots for 78.9 percent, while Wyoming East shot 39 free throws, making 24, for 61.5 percent shooting.
“I thought it was a pretty physical basketball game,” Thompson said. “It is a physical contest. There’s a lot of hand-checking, a lot of pushing and shoving both ways. That was about as rough a game as we’ve played in all year. Sometimes we didn’t get a call, sometimes we did. That was a very, very physical basketball game.”
The Warriors outrebounded Tug Valley 32-30, with Shrewsbury leading on the boards with seven rebounds.
Alex Webb yanked down six rebounds and Evan Muscari pulled down five.
Tug was led on the boards by Evans with nine rebounds, while Brewer and Channing Preece each grabbed five, Vance and Derek Hayes each got three, Zach Preece and Mason Pack reeled in two each and Dustin Maynard got one rebound.
The Panthers end their season with a 17-10 record, while Wyoming East advanced into Saturday’s championship game with a 26-1 record.
“I thought it was a hard-fought game by our kids,” Thompson said. “I’m disappointed in the outcome. Our kids made a good run this year. This is the first time we’ve been here in six years and I’m tickled to death about that. I thought we played hard. You’ve got to give Wyoming East all the credit in the world. They’re a very good basketball team. They’re two-time defending state champs.
“They’re very well coached. They played very hard and you’ve got to give them all the credit. I’m tickled to death that our kids made it as far as they did.”