NAUGATUCK – Tug Valley began its quest for back-to-back state titles on Monday as practice for the boys’ basketball squad started in the Mountain State.
Head basketball coach Garland Thompson told the players that were trying out for the Panther’s team that “they have the rare opportunity to do something unprecedented at Tug Valley High School.”
That is to win back-to-back state championships. Last March the Panthers won the Class Double-A title at the Charleston Civic Center. This season, after the new SSAC enrollment figures were released, Tug Valley High School dropped back down to Class Single-A.
They can’t defend their Class AA title, but they can win back to back championships by taking the Class A trophy home next March.
Over the years TVHS has went back and forth between the two divisions – AA and A – but it still won’t be easy to win in the state’s smallest classification.
Magnolia, one of the state’s top Single-A teams last season, also drops down this year. Then there are the always tough private schools such as Charleston Catholic, Wheeling Central, Parkersburg Catholic, Weirton Madonna and St. Joe or Huntington that play in Class A.
“I’m excited to get started,” Thompson told his team as they huddled at center court. “We’ll try to do something that has never been done before here at Tug Valley – go back-to-back. But, we have a lot of work to do.”
After welcoming the 30 student athletes that showed up on the first day of practice, Thompson told them that he would have to make some cuts. “That is not easy for us to do,” he said. “I’ll be talking to the staff and even your teachers before we make the decision. It’s just something we have to do.”
Thompson also laid down some ground rules, such as no profanity while they were practicing or playing for his squad.
Some of the players had already been going through conditioning drills, but Monday was the first day they could pick up a basketball. Plus, a few players who were on the football team were able to hit the hardwood on Monday.
Tug Valley’s football team made it to the Class A playoffs, but lost in their first round game at Weirton Madonna. He told them they may be in “football shape,” but getting in basketball shape was different.
The Panthers return three starters in seniors Mikey Newsome, Austin Brewer and Aaron Muncy. Newsome and Brewer were all-state selections last spring, while Muncy was one of the top players at the state tournament.
The Panthers will play a tough schedule this season taking on Triple-A schools Logan, Belfry, Huntington and Ashland Paul Blazer; quality Double-A teams such as Westside, Mingo Central; and several of the state’s top Single-A schools.
Thompson is once again being assisted by Tyler Hodge, Stan Elkins and Thomas Newsome.