NAUGATUCK – Last March after winning the state championship in Charleston, Tug Valley fans came out for a big ceremony to honor the team at the TVHS gym.
Coach Garland “Rabbit” Thompson called up two of his starting guards – Mikey Newsome and Austin Brewer – and had them stand back-to-back.
He said that the team’s goal this season was to win back-to-back state titles at the Charleston Civic Center.
Now the Naugatuck school, a consolidation of old Lenore and Kermit high schools, will have the opportunity to do just that.
The Panthers won the Class AA title last March. Then they were forced to drop down to Class A this season because of enrollment figures.
Regardless of the size of school, many feel Tug Valley has one of the best basketball teams in the state of West Virginia.
Coach Thompson’s team is ranked No. 1 in Class A, but have held their own against Triple-A and Double-A opponents this season.
“I’m happy for our seniors,” Thompson said. “They know what they want. Our fans expect it. They are great fans and have continued to support us. This is the place to be in March. Everybody wants to be in Charleston.”
Led by three returning starters, Newsome, Brewer and Aaron Muncy, along with another senior Corey Dillon, junior Thomas Baisden and sophomore sixth-man Hayden Sturgell, Tug Valley has a good chance at bringing home another title.
The Panthers will go in as the No. 1 seed and play their first round game Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. against the No. 8 seed Clarksburg Notre Dame.
“You can’t take anybody lightly,” Thompson said of the Panther’s quarter-final opponent. “We won’t look past them.”
Notre Dame is a private school coached by former WVU player Jarrod West.
“He played at West Virginia,” Thompson said of West. “I think he knows a thing or two about basketball.”
If Tug Valley wins, the semifinals would be Friday at 1 p.m. and the championship for Class A is scheduled for Saturday, at noon.
“Our kids are really confident. It helps that we were there last year,” Thompson said. “We shouldn’t have the jitters.”