NAUGATUCK – The game between the Tug Valley Panthers and the Wesley Christian Circuit Riders was so heated it set the fire alarm off.
To be fair, Wesley Christian had added some size to the roster since the last time these two teams squared off. The Circuit Riders seemed to cover the entire court at certain times during the game but the Panthers didn’t back down. Both teams played with an insane amount of intensity.
Wesley Christian’s size prevailed through the first half. The Circuit Riders scored first and continued on a 9-0 run over the Panthers. Tug Valley turned the ball over 5 times within the first four minutes of the game trying to dribble around and pass through the Circuit Riders long armed defense.
With 1:23 left to play in the first period, Wesley Christian had built a lead of 19-6. The Panthers were having trouble pulling down offensive rebounds over Wesley Christian’s center, Chris Lorng, who is listed as a 6’10 sophomore for the Circuit Riders. Lorng dominated the boards and finished the night pulling in 11 rebounds.
Before the game started, Wesley Christian put on a show for the crowd by pulling off reverse dunks, windmill dunks, and alley-oop’s, which is illegal during warm ups; but the referees arrived late to the game. The first half went much as expected, with Wesley Christian trotting into the locker room with a lead of 33-21.
After the half, the game turned serious. The Panthers hit the floor in the third period with a full-court press and letting the 3-pointers fly. Tug Valley began to slowly chip away at the Circiut Riders lead. With 4:00 left to play in the third, the Panthers had cut Wesley Christian’s lead down to 10 points. The Panthers were giving every effort to close down the scoring gap. Chandler Runyon hit a big 3-pointer with time running out in the third period to end the quarter with a score of 51-38.
The game play began getting physical with neither team ready to back down. The crowd was cheering the roof off the place, and the Panthers were after the ball at every moment on defense. The Circuit Riders began to push back and play just as physical as the Panthers. The fouls picked up and the jump ball calls picked up as well.
The real action started with 5:00 left to play in the fourth period when Wesley Christian’s Ganiyu Yahaya received the ball on a fast break with no one around him. Yahaya seized the opportunity to showcase his jumping ability and attempted a reverse dunk, but the ball bounced off of the back of the rim. The Panther crowd screamed in disapproval, certain the move was illegal, and demanded a technical foul be called. However, the move was legal during playing time, the rule states that players are not allowed to dunk during warmups.
The Panther crowd was ignited when the referee called a foul on the hometown Panthers and sent Yahaya to the foul line. All of a sudden, amongst the roar of the crowd, a buzzer sounded and continued until everyone in attendance had to acknowledge this loud sound. Confusion commenced until Tug Valley principal, Dr. Johnny Branch informed the crowd the noise was the fire alarm and the gymnasium would have to be evacuated and the game would be placed on pause until an investigation could occur.
The Panther crowd reluctantly but willingly filed out of the gymnasium as Dr. Branch had instructed. Chatter and gossip spread like wildfire outside of the gym, speculating what the cause may have been. Some people blamed it on the antics of misguided youth while others speculated it was done on purpose to allow the players time to rest. The real answer may never be discovered. However, the crowd utilized the opportunity as a welcomed nicotine break.
After the alarm ceased, the crowd returned to their seats with anticipation. The players were on the court keeping their muscles warm, while others capitalized on the needed break and rested on the bench. Dr. Branch stood in front of the crowd and announced the game would continue momentarily.
Upon commencement of the game, the scoreboard read 5:21 left to play in the game and the score read 59-47 with the Circuit Riders leading. The Circuit Riders were allowed four free throws and made two of them to jump the score up. The game intensity continued to grow with every second. The Panthers cut the Circuit Riders lead down to 10 points with 4:30 left to play in the game.
Wesley Christian discovered a way to beat the Panthers press just as Tug Valley inched closer with the score being 64-54. You could cut the tension with a knife. The game continued on into the final minute where the Panthers were refusing to lay down and die. Garrett Brown hit a huge 3-pointer for the Panthers to get the rhythm going again just as the final minute began.
On the very next play, Wesley Christian attempted to inbound the ball and it was intercepted by Tug Valley’s Jeremy Dillon. Dillon ran across the 3-point line and nailed the shot with hands in his face, making the score 72-62. The Circuit Riders made a quick basket and the Panthers came firing down the floor. Dillon grabbed the ball and nailed another 3-pointer with hands in his face to make the score 74-65.
As the final seconds slipped away, the Panthers had no other choice but to foul, Wesley Christian continued stepping to the line and adding points to their score. The game ended with a final score of 78-65.
Dillon led the way for the Panthers with 19 points; he made 54 percent of his shots going 7 for 13 including three 3-pointers. Dillon also had four assists and 7 rebounds. Calvin Blankenship came in second in scoring with 11 points but he also had seven assists. The Panthers shot 42 percent from the floor making 23 of 55 shots. The Panthers also shot 65 percent from the free throw line making 11 of 17 foul shots.
The Panthers will return to action on Friday as they travel to face the Man Hillbillies, tipoff for that game is set to begin at 7:30 p.m.
Score by quarters:
TV: 6 15 17 27 – 65
WC: 21 12 18 27 -78
TV: Jeremy Dillon -19, Jonthan Blankenship -5, Chandler Runyon -8, Tyler May -6, Corbin Oliver -6, Garrett brown -7, Calvin Blankenship -11, Colby Savage -3.
WC: Ganiyu Yahaya -16, Chris Lorng – 12, Ben Kapinga -3, Milos Milosavic -10, Harry Sun -2, Benson Lin -21, Mohamad Elsheikha -1, Malik McDonald -9,
(William Plaster is the sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News, he can be reached at 304-235-4242 ext. 2274 or at [email protected] or on twitter @sidplaster)