NAUGATUCK – The Tug Valley Panthers are heading to their 13th State Tournament appearance since 1987 with their seventh different head coach.
Not much has been mentioned about the Panther teams of the past while we cheer on the Panthers of the present. Winning has become a tradition for Tug Valley. Thanks to local sports enthusiast and photographer Wes Wilson, we now have a clear picture of the roots that provide the foundation of this winning program.
The only other program in Mingo County that has more state tournament appearances than the Panthers is the Williamson Wolfpack with 21. The Panthers have accumulated 18 sectional championships, 12 regional championships and 3 state championships.
The first state championship was back during the 1998-1999 season, the team was coached by Frankie Smith. The second and third state championships were back to back in the 2011-2012, and 2012-2013 seasons. Both teams were coached by Garland Thompson.
This year’s team, under the direction of first year head coach Edwyn May, is fueled by a group of young all-stars. The Panthers finished the regular season with a record of 16-3. The Panthers are currently setting at 19-3 heading into Thursday morning’s game against Tucker County in the opening round of the state tournament.
Like the seasons before the Panthers have had a memorable season. Tug Valley started the season off with an 87-30 win over Richwood to set the tone. The talk surrounding the Panthers grew serious when the Panthers upset No.3 in Class-A Notre Dame on the road by a score of 58-53. The first loss of the season came at the hands of Class-AAA George Washington in the Hatfield-McCoy Shootout in an overtime loss of 75-67. The Panthers have finished off the season by winning all post season games by 20 or more points including a huge 49 point win over Sherman in the opening round of the sectionals.
This season has been a big confidence booster for the young squad. The Panthers start two seniors and three sophomores with a senior and two sophomores rotating off of the bench. This confidence will be needed when the Panthers fall into the new sectional re-alignments next season.
The Panthers dropped from Class-AA to Class-A back in 2012, even with the incorporation of areas like Kermit and Lenore who used to have their own teams. Panther Pride is still as strong as ever on game night. Tug Valley is one of the few basketball programs around the area that still plays in front of a packed house, forget hitting Main Street; the action is at Tug Valley High School Gymnasium.
The Panthers overall record stands at 463-221 with a 67 percent win rate since the late 80’s.
The Panthers are likely to survive the first round of the tournament against Tucker County. If so, they are seeded to face the winner of Wheeling Central and Parkersburg Catholic. Wheeling Central is the favorite after being ranked No.1 in the state in Class-A all season.
This year’s Panthers have a good shot at adding more accolades to an already impressive program.
Tug Valley High School Basketball History 1987-2016
1987-88 (10-9) Dick Montgomery/Kent Hoke -Sectional Runners-Up
1988-89 (10-12) Kent Hoke -Sectional Runners-Up
1989-90 (13-7) Kent Hoke -Sectional Runners-Up
1990-91 (10-11) Kent Hoke -Sectional Runners-Up
1991-92 (6-15) Kent Hoke -Sectional Runners-Up
1992-93 (12-8) Frankie Smith -Sectional Runners-Up
1993-94 (9-14) Frankie Smith -Regional Runners-Up
1994-95 (13-9) Frankie Smith -Sectional Runners-Up
1995-96 (17-4) Frankie Smith -Sectional Runners-Up
1996-97 (15-10) Frankie Smith -State Tournament-Semifinalist
1997-98 (16-7) Frankie Smith -Regional Runners-Up
1998-99 (24-2) Frankie Smith -State Champions (Class “AA”)
1999-00 (21-4) Roger Harless -State Tournament-Semifinalist
2000-01 (19-7) Roger Harless -State Tournament-Runners-Up
2001-02 (26-2) Roger Harless -State Tournament-Quarterfinalist
2002-03 (18-6) Roger Harless -State Tournament-Quarterfinalist
2003-04 (18-6) Roger Harless -Regional Runners-Up
2004-05 (8-15) Roger Harless/D.M. -Regional Runners-Up
2005-06 (10-14) David Mollett -Sectional Runners-Up
2006-07 (17-6) David Mollett -Sectional Semifinalist
2007-08 (15-9) Garland Thompson -Sectional Runners-Up
2008-09 (15-10) Garland Thompson -State Tournament-Semifinalist
2009-10 (19-6) Garland Thompson -State Tournament-Semifinalist
2010-11 (18-6) Garland Thompson -Regional Runners-Up
2011-12 (26-2) Garland Thompson -State Champions (Class “AA”)
2012-13 (25-3) Garland Thompson -State Champions (Class “A”)
2013-14 (17-7) Garland Thompson -Regional Runners-Up
2014-15 (17-7) Garland Thompson -State Tournament-Quarterfinalist
2015-16 (19-3)* Edwyn May **
Overall-(463-221)-[.676%]-684 Games Played
18 Sectional Championships
12 Regional Championships
3 State Championships
(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)