NAUGATUCK – The Tug Valley Panthers will get the chance to win back-to-back state championships as they defeated Greenbrier West 76-47 in the co-finals of the Class A, Region 3 title game on Thursday night at home.
The Panthers won the Class AA title last March.
“I’m tickled to death we won,” TV coach Garland “Rabbit” Thompson said. “This is what you do in the tournament. Survive and advance and we’re moving on. I thought our crowd was great. One of our goals was making it back to Charleston.”
A standing room-only crowd once again packed into the TVHS gym to watch the Panthers.
“We’ve got the best fans around,” said Panther assistant coach Tyler Hodge.
The gym was packed by 5:30 p.m. The game didn’t start until 7 p.m. Traffic and parking kept law enforcement, security and administration busy.
Tug Valley jumped out to a 9-2 lead.
Senior Aaron “Petey” Muncy had the hot hand early in the game. He scored 10 first quarter points including a pair of 3-pointers.
The Panthers came out with a swarming full-court press, something they have become known for. They went up 18-5 and Greenbrier West called a timeout. The Cavaliers called two in the initial quarter.
Tug Valley was up 25-15 after one quarter.
The Panthers continued to force turnovers and get some easy transition baskets against the visitors. They led 41-28 at the half.
Muncy had 12 points in the first half to lead the way, followed by nine each from Austin Brewer and Thomas Baisden. Greenbrier West’s 6-8 center Josh Martin had 11 in the half to lead his team.
The Cavs continued to battle in the second half, but they were just no match for the Panthers. Tug Valley led 54-36 after three quarters.
Greenbrier West cut the lead to 56-44 with 5:53 left, but that was as close as they would get.
Mikey Newsome got several easy layups down the stretch and the Panthers pulled away.
“This is amazing,” Newsome said during the on-court celebration. “Hopefully this is not the end of it. We’re after something bigger and better.”
“It feels great,” his longtime teammate, ‘Petey’ Muncy said. “I hope we can win another state championship!”
“When we’re playing like we can – no one can stop us,” Muncy added.
Brewer, the point guard, had his usual steady game.
“This is not what we want just yet,” the lanky guard said. “We want the big one!”
Brewer scored 19, including another crowd-pleasing breakaway dunk. He dished out 10 assists, Newsome was next with 17 points, junior Thomas Baisden had 13 and Muncy ended the game with 14, as Tug Valley had four players in double figures.
Corey Dillon added four, sophomore sixth man Hayden Sturgell three, Austin Baisden two, Ethan Hager two and Kyle Newsome two.
Martin led the Cavs with 15 points, while Colby Ennis had 13 and Corey Cox added seven.
The Panthers now have a record of 21-3 heading into the state tourney. They have won 32 straight home games at the TVHS gym.
Tug Valley got the No. 1 seed and are slated to open the state tourney on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. against No. 8 seed Clarksburg Notre Dame at the Charleston Civic Center.
No. 3 Charleston Catholic takes on No. 6 Buffalo on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. and No. 2 Magnolia is set to play No. 7 Wheeling Central on Wednesday at 1 p.m.
The other Class A state quarterfinal has No. 4 Tucker County battling it out against No. 5 Greater Beckley Christian on Wednesday at 9 p.m.