By Kyle Lovern
NAUGATUCK – The Tug Valley Panthers were clicking on all cylinders Thursday night as they defeated visiting Greater Beckley Christian (GBC) 67-52 to revenge a loss from earlier in the season.
GBC defeated the Panthers 67-53 at the Raleigh County Armory back in January. The two teams will likely meet again in the sectional finals this week barring a major upset in the early rounds of the tourney.
“Anytime you beat Greater Beckley Christian that’s a good win,” Panther Coach Garland “Rabbit” Thompson said after the game. “I just wish this would have been before the seedings came out. It might have made a difference.”
The Thursday night game was a makeup from a postponed game earlier in the season. Thompson was referring to the sectional pairings for the upcoming tournament in which GBC got the No. 1 seed and Tug Valley the No. 2 spot.
“I changed the lineup tonight. I brought Aaron (Copley) in there and he played a very good game. Thomas (Baisden) was huge all night long. I also thought Hayden Sturgell played his best game of the season. If we get that out of Hayden – we’ll be tough to beat,” Thompson said. “This was a total team effort and we cut down on our turnovers.”
Sturgell had a season high 23 points, including 3-of-6 from behind the arc. He also had 5 rebounds and played a solid floor game.
Thomas Baisden had his usual solid game with 12 points and 9 rebounds. Austin Baisden also had 12 points and 5 rebounds. Copley added 7 points and 7 rebounds, while Calvin Blankenship had 6 points and dished out 5 assists. Kyle Newsome added 5 points, while Shane Marcum chipped in a basket.
Tug Valley only had six turnovers in the game, but had been averaging double figures in that statistic.
The Panthers swarming defense also cut down the passing lanes as they deflected several passes and came away with some key steals. “We went zone there for a little bit and pushed them out on the perimeter,” Thompson added. The successful TVHS coach rotated his substitutions around offense and defense and it seemed to work.
Tug Valley shot 23-58 from the floor for 40 percent, including 4-15 from behind the 3-point land. They were 17-24 at the foul line for 71 percent.
Elisha Kidd led the Crusaders with 25 points, while Isaiah Francis scored 12 and Javonne Staunton-Bailey added 10 for coach Danny Burd’s squad.
GBC only shot 28 percent from the floor on 16-58 shots, including 3-19 from behind the arc. They were 17-27 from the free throw line for 63 percent. The Crusaders had 17 turnovers in the game.
Tug led 18-15 after one quarter and 33-26 at the half. The Panthers had balanced scoring in the first half as Sturgell and Austin Baisden each scored 8 and Copley and Thomas Baisden both had 6 points.
Kidd had 10 in the first half to help keep GBC close.
Tug Valley extended the lead to 49-39 after three quarters and then kept a comfortable lead down the stretch to pull out the big win.
“I thought Tug Valley played a great game. We have had a tough stretch, but will use this game to better ourselves,” said GBC coach Dan Burd. “I think there’s a lot we can learn from this game. We need to focus on Tuesday night.”
The Panthers (15-6) will host a first round Region 3, Section 1 game on Tuesday playing the winner of Sherman-Montcalm. Greater Beckley will take on the winner of Man-Van game. The championship will be on Friday at 7 p.m. at a site to be determined, which will be the higher seeded team.
Score by quarters:
Greater Beckley - 15 11 11 15 - 52
Tug Valley - 18 15 16 18 – 67
GBC – Staunton-Bailey 10, Kidd 25, Francis 12, Cornett 2, Helton 3.
Tug – Newsome 5, Copley 7, Sturgell 23, S. Marcum 2, A. Baisden 12, Blankenship 6, T. Baisden 12.
(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 or Twitter @KyleLovern)