NAUGATUCK – The Tug Valley Panthers are one win away from making it back to the West Virginia state high school basketball tournament as they host Greenbrier West in the Class A, Region 3 co-championship Thursday night.
Greenbrier West, a No. 2 seed in their sectional, comes into the game after losing in the sectional final to Valley of Fayette. They have a record of 17-6.
They are led by 6-7 senior center Josh Martin. They also have another big senior in 6-4 Zack Johnson. The Cavaliers, whose colors are blue and gold, have some experienced guards and are coached by Joey Fitzwater.
Other players that should see action against Tug Valley in the regional tourney game are guards Corey Cox, Austin Ransom and Brandon Gwinn. The forwards are Johnson, Slade Sweet, Alex Hendrix and Colby Ennis.
Tug Valley will counter with senior guards Mikey Newsome, Austin Brewer and Aaron Muncy. The center will be senior Corey Dillon and junior Thomas Baisden will start at forward. Baisden is averaging about 12 ppg.
Newsome, who plays a wing, is averaging around 17.5 ppg. He has made about 40 percent of his 3-pointers. His overall field goal percentage is 51 percent.
“They better be ready to run,” said Tug Valley head coach Garland “Rabbit” Thompson. “We will play our game – pressure for 94-feet and trapping on defense.”
“We will run our offense,” Thompson added. “We like to get a lot of offense from our defense.”
The Panthers have been able to force teams into turnovers, which results in some easy transition baskets for them.
Brewer, who handles the point guard position, averages about 15.4 ppg. He is also averaging about seven assists per game.
Coming off the bench for Thompson will be sixth man Hayden Sturgell, a junior who can play guard or forward. Others providing bench strength are sophomores Austin Baisden, Aaron Copley and Kyle Newsome.
As most local sports fans know, Tug Valley won the Class AA title last March. New enrollment figures dropped the school down to Class A for the next four years.
The Panthers, ranked No. 1 in Class A, defeated Greater Beckley Christian (No. 6) in the sectional championship last Thursday to advance.
Thompson is excited his team is moving on, but hopes the long home winning string doesn’t stop Thursday night.
Tug Valley is tough to beat at home. They have won 31 straight home games at Naugatuck.
Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m. All tickets at the door will be $7, which is a price set by the SSAC. Advance student tickets for $5 will be available at the school on Thursday. Another capacity crowd is expected for the game.