NAUGATUCK – A second half surge moved Tug Valley past the Lady Hillbillies Thursday night as they picked up the Class A sectional championship 58-37 at the TVHS gym.
The Lady Panthers actually trailed at halftime. But in the end, they were climbing the ladder and cutting down the nets.
Tug Valley went into the dressing room trailing 22-18. Junior forward Hannah Armstrong was battling foul trouble and had to sit on the bench with three fouls for most of the second quarter.
The Lady Hillbillies played a 1-3-1 zone defense and it took the Lady Panthers awhile to adjust. But once they did, it was all Tug Valley.
After Armstrong picked up her fourth foul with 6:32 left in the third quarter, other players stepped up. Sophomore point guard Adreana Vance hit a layup to give Tug a 27-26 lead. Amber Linville had gotten a rebound and made a nice outlet pass to Vance who took the ball the length of the floor. This seemed to give the Lady Panthers the momentum they needed.
Vance hit two more baskets in the Tug Valley run. Whitney Evans-Kirk had six points in the third quarter and freshman Emily Baisden came off the bench to hit a pair of two big buckets. The Lady Panthers ended the quarter with a 37-28 lead.
Man made a little run and cut the lead to 42-36 with 2:58 left in the game. But after a pair of free throws by Linville and a basket by Armstrong, Tug increased their lead by 10, 46-36. From that point they pulled away and Coach Okey Smith put in his reserves to finish the game.
“We played the best we have played in the second half tonight. Man came out in a zone the first half and we had trouble adjusting to it, give them credit they have a great team,” Smith said. “We made adjustments at halftime and picked up the offense in the second half. I thought we played great defense the whole game.”
“I thought Amber (Linville) played her best game in a Tug Valley uniform tonight, she was a beast on the boards. We told them all week that we had to win the battle of the boards to win the game and Amber won that battle for us tonight,” said Smith. “Adreana played another great game for us tonight, you could see that refuse to lose look in her eyes during the second half. Whitney toughed out another game for us tonight, not many girls could play through the pain that she plays through.”
“Cassie Griffith did an outstanding job defending Morgan Conn and kept her out of the offensive flow for them. Hannah (Armstrong) was in foul trouble but came back in late in the fourth quarter and played well. Emily Baisden came in for Hannah and played great defense on Mika McCoy and hit a couple of big baskets in the third quarter for us. I wish Man good luck next week in the regionals, they have a fine team. Summer Sword and Taylor Whited are two of the best we have played against this year.”
Vance led Tug Valley with 20 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. Linville had 13 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. Evans-Kirk had 11 points for TVHS.
Sword led Man with 11 points and six rebounds, while Whited had 11 points. Mika McCoy added seven points and six rebounds.
Man and Tug Valley split in two meetings this season. The Lady Billies won 67-51 on January 24 at home and lost 65-54 on February 4 at Naugatuck.
Tug Valley (15-8) advances to the regional finals next Thursday. They will host Valley of Fayette, the loser, a No. 2 seed of the Region 3, Section 1.
The Lady Hillbillies (14-10) had beat Sherman 52-22 at home at the Man Memorial Fieldhouse Tuesday to make it to the sectional finals. They also advance to the Regional finals, but will have to play the winner of Section 1, on the road.
Score by quarters:
MHS …13 9 6 9 - 37
TVHS … 10 8 19 21 - 58
Man - Sword 12, Shull 4, Conn 7, McCoy 7, Whited 10.
Tug Valley - Griffith 4, Robinson 2, Vance 20, Evans-Kirk 11, Armstrong 4, Baisden 4, Linville 13.