Daily Mail Preps Editor
CHARLESTON - Aside from a class shift, it appears very little has changed for the Tug Valley boys basketball program in the last 11 months.
Last March, the Panthers impressively handled the open arena of the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum by shooting their way to the Class AA state championship.
Currently the top-ranked team in Class A, Tug (16-3) was nearly unconscious from floor Wednesday evening against No. 2 Charleston Catholic (16-3), making 25-of-47 shots from the floor in a 61-38 rout of the Irish.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Austin (Brewer). He does a great job getting the ball into the paint and finding the right guys,” Panthers senior guard Mikey Newsome said after he led all players with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting. “Guys know they can’t guard Austin. Once he gets into the paint he either goes up or he kicks it back out, and when he did guys did a nice job of knocking down shots.”
Brewer, who like Newsome has surpassed the 1,000-point scoring mark for his career, had 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting. He also led the Panthers with 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots. Brewer and Newsome each had three steals to lead Tug. “I think Austin Brewer is the best all-around player in single-A,” Tug Coach Garland “Rabbit” Thompson said. “I know a lot of people think (Charleston Catholic junior Nick) George is up there and (Magnolia senior center Mark) Winters, too, but really, he does it all. That stat line has been pretty typical for him.”
Catholic took the court without the leadership of Coach Bill McClanahan, who was in Richmond, Va., on business Wednesday. “To be honest, we might have caught them at a good time,” Thompson said. “They just played the night before at Buffalo, and they don’t have their head coach here. That makes a big difference.”
The Irish looked out of sorts from the start, and never got into an offensive rhythm, thanks in large part to the intense defensive pressure that is a hallmark of Tug Valley teams. After battling to an 11-11 tie after one quarter, Tug scored the first eight points of the second, starting with a bucket by Corey Dillon. Newsome padded the lead to four, then scored again off his own steal. When the 5-foot-11 senior hit a turnaround jumper in the paint after another Irish turnover shortly thereafter, Catholic Coach Fred McPherson called a timeout that did little but postpone the inevitable. Tug led 30-16 by halftime, and 50-31 after three quarters.
Catholic junior point guard Garret McCarty and senior forward Zach Casto had the only statistical positives for the Irish. McCarty had all seven of his team’s steals, which led all players. Casto – who had 29 points Tuesday night at Buffalo, was held to seven against Tug, but had 10 rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end.
George led the Irish with 10 points, but the junior center did not have a rebound until 1:30 remained in the third quarter. Catholic shot just 28.2 percent, and Tug won the battle of the boards, 34-26, a number that was skewed in Catholic’s favor by mass substitutions made by both teams with 2:33 left in the game.
“All three of our losses have been to teams that have played us physical: Poca, Tucker County and Tug,” McPherson said. “Then, they shot the lights out and we couldn’t put one in the ocean from the lifeguard’s chair.”
Though Tug had a visible speed advantage to go with its more physical nature, Catholic stayed in a man-to-man offense throughout the game, never mixing the defense up with a zone or even a junk defense to slow Brewer or Newsome.
“That was the game plan. We thought we could stay with them in man, because those three guards (Brewer, Newsome and Aaron Muncy) are going to shoot the lights out of a zone,” McPherson said. “We just have to man up and hope we see them down the road and play better the next time we see them.”
The man defense played right into Tug’s hands, Brewer said. “We knew their guards were good, but they weren’t too good in a one-on-one match-up,” Brewer said. “We knew if we kept putting pressure on them we could keep getting the boards, because we’re bigger and stronger than they are. We thought we’d win by double digits if we played as good as we could.”
(Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org)