NAUGATUCK – The Lady Panthers were one game away from heading to the state tournament in Charleston. Unfortunately they were upset by Valley of Fayette 62-58 in the co-championships of the Class A, Region 3 tournament held at Tug Valley Thursday night.
In an ironic twist of fate, the Lady Hillbillies of Man, the team Tug Valley beat 58-37 in the sectional championship game, upset Fayetteville in their co-final regional game. They beat the Lady Pirates 79-71 in double overtime.
The newer setup for the post season tournament in West Virginia gives the runner-up team in the sectional a chance to advance for one more game in the regional. Thus, in this region, both of the sectional runner-up teams won in upsets.
“Close games are usually decided by the stats that nobody pays attention to and in tonight’s game that proved to be true,” said Tug Valley head coach Okey Smith. “Rebounding killed us tonight. You can’t give a team with a player as talented as Alexis Payne second and third chances on the offensive end, but we did and that is why they will be playing next week and we will not be playing.”
“After watching them play late in the season, I felt we could match up and play them man to man but we couldn’t find the right match for Payne. In the second half we went to a triangle and two defense and played much better, but just could never hit that shot that would put us in the lead.”
“I feel that if we could have gotten the lead on them in the second half that we would have won the game. Losing Whitney (Evans-Kirk) in the third quarter (knee injury) hurt us a lot, especially on the offensive end, but we have played with injuries all year so we won’t be using that as an excuse.”
“Speaking of Whitney, I am so proud of her. There are not many kids who would go through what she has in the past two years and even attempt to play basketball, but she loves the game and she got herself back in basketball shape and had a very good year for us. I wish her all the luck in the world as she moves on in life and no matter what career she goes into if she approaches her job the way she approaches basketball she will be successful,” Smith added.
“My other senior Amber (Linville) I will really miss. This is my 6th year of coaching her (two at Kermit Middle and four at Tug Valley). It will be strange when practice starts next season not seeing Amber on the floor,” Smith said of Linville.
“For the girls we have back, the future looks bright but, they have to continue to work hard. I am sure that Adreana, Hannah, and Cassie will continue to push the younger girls to improve their games. We had three freshmen (Katie, Emily, and Cassidy) that played a lot of minutes tonight in a Regional Final and that experience will only help them in the future,” Smith concluded.
The two teams were tied 20-20 after one quarter of play. Valley led 33-27 at the half, but Tug fought back in the third, but could never get over the hump. The Lady Greyhounds were able to hold on down the stretch and pull off the upset.
Sophomore guard Adreana Vance led the Lady Panthers with 22 points, eight rebounds and she dished out four assists. Junior forward Hannah Armstrong scored 17 and grabbed 10 rebounds. Evans-Kirk added 11, before leaving the game with her knee injury. Linville added six points, while Robinson chipped in a basket.
Payne had a great game to lead Valley with 35 points, 20 rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Abbie Buchan scored 14 for Valley. Gracyn Grubb had six points, Kelsey Bird scored five, but pulled down eight rebounds. Alayshia Taylor did not score, but had nine big rebounds for the visitors.
Tug Valley finishes the season at 15-9. Valley advances to the state tournament in Charleston with a record of 13-7. They will go in as a No. 7 seed and will play Wheeling Central Catholic.
Score by quarters:
VHS … 20 13 10 19 - 62
TVHS … 20 7 13 18 - 58
Valley - Bird 5, Grubb 6, Buchan 14, Payne 33, Taylor 2, Lively 2.
Tug Valley - Linville 6, Evans-Kirk 11, Armstrong 15, Vance 24, Robinson 2.