By Kyle Lovern
NAUGATUCK – Fans can get spoiled after watching their team win back-to-back state championships and taking continued trips deep into the post season.
Tug Valley fans enjoyed much success the last two seasons as their Panthers won the Class AA state title in 2012 and Class A championship last year.
The Panthers had not lost a game in their home gym since 2001. However, they saw a 32 game home winning streak snapped Tuesday night. The last loss at the TVHS gym was to Class AAA Huntington High School.
But, hit hard by graduation, Tug Valley only returned one starter this season.
On Tuesday night the Panthers lost for the second time this season to Class AA Westside, 60 to 49. Westside is ranked No. 4 in Class AA this week, while Tug Valley is ranked No. 7 in Class A. The Renegades only lost came to their county rival Wyoming East, who is ranked No. 2 this week.
Tug Valley lost to the Renegades back in December 68-59 at Clear Fork in Wyoming County.
Coach Garland “Rabbit” Thompson and his staff are working hard to get their team to improve and make a run come March.
“We got beat by a very good basketball team,” Thompson said. “Cogar (Justin) hurt us bad. I wish we would have defended him better.”
The 6’4” Cogar, a junior, led Westside with 24 points , 12 rebounds and he dished out five assists. Justin Kenneda added 14 points for the Renegades, Jordan Browning added eight points and Levi Lambert chipped in seven.
“They had good ball movement and they got out on us a few times,” Thompson said of Westside’s transition game. “We got beat on the boards. They are a well-coached team. Nick Cook does a great job.”
Westside was also playing without one of its starters. Senior Casey Bowles was sitting out due to an injury.
Hayden Sturgell led the Panthers with 19 points, while Calvin Blankenship added 14 and Thomas Baisden 10. Baisden, a senior, led TVHS with 11 rebounds.
Tug Valley got off to a good start and led 14-11 after the first quarter. Westside missed some easy baskets in the early minutes.
The Renegades settled down and outscored the Panthers 14-7 in the second quarter to take a 25-21 lead at the half.
Tug Valley came out with full-court pressure to start the game and Westside used some half-court traps. Both teams had some early turnovers.
Sturgell’s 3-point play the old fashioned way right before the first half cut into the lead to give the Panthers some momentum.
Westside came out in the third quarter with some mini-runs to increase their lead in the third quarter. Untimely turnovers plagued Tug Valley every time they would pull within striking distance.
Tug’s Baisden had a couple of old-fashioned 3-point plays in the third to help keep his team close, but the Panthers could never get over the hump.
The Renegades increased their lead to 40-29 early in the final quarter. Both teams had a little bit of a scoring drought in the next couple of minutes.
Tug trimmed the lead to 48-40 with 2:30 left in the game.
However, a put-back by Browning and a 3-pointer by Kenneda gave Westside a 53-40 lead and from that point, time just quickly ran out for the home team.
Tug Valley was 17-50 from the floor for 34 percent, including 4-11 from behind the arc for 36 percent. The Panthers were 11-14 at the free throw line for 79 percent.
Westside made 19 of 47 shots from the field for 40 percent, including 2 of 4 from 3-point land for 50 percent. They were 20-30 at the charity stripe for 67 percent.
This is also the first time that Tug Valley (4-3) has suffered three losses in one season in quite a while. The Panthers lost to regional rival Greater Beckley Christian last Friday, but bounced back to beat Roane County on Saturday.
Tug Valley (4-3) will travel to Phelps, Ky. on Friday night and take on Sheldon Clark in the Hatfield-McCoy Shootout at the Williamson Fieldhouse on Saturday evening.
Westside, now 7-1, will travel to Oak Hill on Friday night.
Score by quarters:
Westside (6-1) …11 14 15 20 - 60
Tug Valley (4-3) .. 14 7 10 18 - 49
Westside (60) – Cook 3, Fox 4, Browning 8, Kenneda 14, Lambert 7, Cogar 24.
Tug Valley (49) – Newsome 3, Copley 1, Sturgell 19, A. Baisden 2, Blankenship 14, T. Baisden 10.
(Kyle Lovern is the Sports Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-235-4242, ext. 33)