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Tug Valley pulls away from Notre Dame

Lawrence Pierce
Tug Valley's Austin Brewer (30) passes around Notre Dame's Philip Chafin during Wednesday's Class A quarterfinals.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Class A No. 1 Tug Valley began its run at a Class A state championship with a run that all but ran its opponent out of the gym on Wednesday.

The Panthers used a 37-5 spurt over the second and third quarters to bury a once-competitive No. 8 Notre Dame team en route to a 87-62 quarterfinal win.

Tug will play in the semifinals at 1 p.m. Friday against No. 4 Tucker County.

The Panthers are chasing a title for a second straight season after winning the Class AA championship last season. Led by senior guards Mikey Newsome and Austin Brewer, Tug looks every bit the part of favorite again.

"Dropping down from AA to A and being the defending AA champions, it just puts a bigger target on your back being the No. 1 seed," Newsome said. "People are going to come out and give you their best shot night in and night out and that's what Notre Dame did.

"We were excited to come out of the gate, but we eventually settled down and got into a rhythm."

Indeed, Newsome and Brewer were their normal stellar selves on offense, scoring 25 and 19 points, respectively, but it was the Panthers' defense that continuously gave the duo chances by forcing 24 Notre Dame turnovers. Tug made Notre Dame pay to the tune of 42 points off those turnovers.

A high volume of fast-break points (20) also resulted in a scorching hot shooting percentage of 57.6 percent (34 for 59). In the end, Tug was just far too much for Notre Dame to deal with.

Brewer added 10 assists while Newsome rolled up seven steals, and the two combined to hit 16 of 29 shots.

Fellow guard Aaron Muncy spent much of the night in foul trouble, but Tug Valley coach Garland Thompson said his three frontcourt players have driven his team all season.

"Thing 1, Thing 2 and Thing 3 - they come to play," Thompson said. "They have a lot of big-game experience and they make me look good. They've been through so many fights and battles before, they know when to step up, and I'm thankful and blessed to have all three of them."

Early on, Notre Dame was able to hang in and led most of the way through the first quarter, shutting down Tug's first few possessions.

The Irish hung around for much of the second quarter as well, pulling within three after a pair of Justin Goff free throws made the score 30-27.

But that is where the Panthers' huge run started, and an 8-0 spurt before the break propelled Tug to a more-comfortable 11-point halftime lead and the rout was on to begin the third quarter.

"I thought for the most part in the first half we stuck with them," Notre Dame coach Jarrod West said. "A few timely turnovers right before the half kind of put us behind the 8 ball. Coming out in that third quarter they turned it up defensively. They switched and their 2-2-1 gave us more problems than I thought it would.

"Once a team like that gets rolling, it's hard to fight back. They're a very good team."

Hayden Sturgell scored 12 points off the bench for the Panthers and Thomas Baisden added 10.

Goff scored 14 points to lead the Irish (14-9) and Cal Cistaro added 13.

Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, ryan.pritt@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.


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