By Kyle Lovern
MONTGOMERY, W. Va. - The Tug Valley Panthers will not be defending their Class A state championship next week in Charleston.
The Panthers lost to Valley of Fayette 82-63 in the co-finals of the Region 3 tourney Wednesday night at the small gymnasium of VFHS in Montgomery.
Tug Valley was forced to hit the road for the game after losing to Greater Beckley Christian this past Saturday in the sectional finals.
The Greyhounds jumped out to a 22-12 first quarter lead and the Panthers trailed 40-25 heading into the dressing room at the half.
Tug Valley played even with the home team as both squads scored 15 in the third quarter, but they were never able to get over the hump after trailing at halftime. The Greyhounds outscored the Panthers 27-23 in the final period to pull away and advance to the state tournament for the first time since 2004.
Valley placed five players in double figures and another barely missed scoring 8 points. Raeshawn Breckenridge led the way with 20, Zac Warden was next in line with 18, Keyshawn Payne scored 13, while Henry Barron-Houchins and Druw Bowen each chipped in 10 points. Donte Wilkerson added 8 points for the Greyhounds. Warden pulled down 12 rebounds and Bowen 9 for Valley.
The Greyhounds were 27-58 from the floor for 47 percent and 3-11 from behind the arc.
For Tug Valley, junior Hayden Sturgell scored 17, while sophomore Calvin Blankenship fired in 16. Senior Thomas Baisden, playing in his last game as a Panther, scored 13 points and 13 rebounds. Aaron Copley chipped in 6 points.
The Panthers battled foul trouble the entire game. They were whistled for several personals, 14 in the first half and 31 for the game. Four players ended up fouling out including Thomas Baisden, Newsome, Marcum and Blankenship.
Valley of Fayette ended up with 19 fouls in the physical contest.
“We got beat by a better team,” said Tug Valley head Coach Garland “Rabbit” Thompson. “They played hard and attacked us off the dribble. They got some easy shots. They are an athletic team.”
“We have not given up 83 points all year,” Thompson added. “It was a physical game. We got in foul trouble and that didn’t help us either.”
Valley of Fayette was 25-36 at the free throw line for 69 percent, while the Panthers were only 7-18 for 39 percent. The poor free throw shooting is something that has haunted Tug Valley all season.
“We had another bad shooting game,” Thompson added.
The Panthers did not shoot well from the floor, making 26-71 shots for 37 percent, including 4-13 from behind the 3-point line. In the Greater Beckley Christian game TVHS did not shoot a high percentage either.
“I hate it for Thomas, who is our lone senior,” Thompson said. “He has been a big part of our success here.”
Thompson said he is sure the home court advantage helped Valley of Fayette, just like it was an advantage for Tug Valley when they beat the Greyhounds in Naugatuck in the regular season.
“I’m sure they remembered that loss and were ready for us,” Thompson said.
Valley of Fayette will head to the state tournament at the Charleston Civic Center next week, while Tug Valley will lick their wounds and start working for next season. The Panthers won back to back titles in 2012 and 2013, the Class AA trophy two years ago and then the Class A title last March.
Score by quarters:
Tug Valley - 12 13 15 23 - 63
Valley Fayette - 22 18 15 27 – 82
Tug Valley (63) – K. Newsome 2, A. Copley 6, H. Sturgell 17, S. Marcum 3, A. Baisden 4, C. Blankenship 16, T. Baisden 13 and D. Marcum 2.
Valley of Fayette (82) – D. Wilkerson 8, H. Barron-Houchins 10, K. Payne 13, R. Breckinridge 20, T. Concliffe 3, Z. Warden 18 and D. Bowen 10.
(Kyle Lovern is the Sports Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at email@example.com or at 304-235-4242, ext. 33)