State Tournament: Defensive effort lifts Panthers past Irish
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Tug Valley, the defending Class AA state champion, started the Class A state tournament strong behind a stellar defensive performance en route to a sound victory Wednesday night.
The top-seeded Panthers, now competing in Class A, defeated No. 8 seed Notre Dame 87-62 at the Charleston Civic Center to advance to play Tucker County at 1 p.m. Friday.
As has been Tug Valley's calling card, the Panthers (23-3) won with defense.
"We're a pressing basketball team," Tug Valley Coach Garland Thompson said. "If it's not a diamond or a 2-2-1, it's some kind of half-court (press). That's what we do. We try to establish defensive intensity, pressure, constant pressure on the ball."
With an 11-point lead in hand, Thompson switched the Panthers to a 2-2-1 defense to begin the third quarter. The plan worked to perfection as the Fighting Irish (14-9) scored just five points on two field goals in the quarter.
"Coming out in that third quarter, they turned it up defensively," Notre Dame Coach Jarrod West said. "Once a team like that gets rolling, it's hard to fight back."
In total, the Panthers created 42 points off 24 turnovers.
While the defense locked down, Tug Valley's talented senior guards Mikey Newsome and Austin Brewer took control offensively.
The Panthers duo combined to score 19 points in the third quarter, and at one point, the Panthers went on a 21-0 run to lead 64-30.
Newsome finished with a game-high 25 points and seven steals.
Brewer finished with 19 points and a game-high 10 assists.
"I like to try to get my team involved first," Brewer said, "because once I drive and kick out and get some open shots - once I drive - they start to kick out and try to defend. That gives me open layups. Once I get into my flow, I usually do what I want. I can usually go into score, I can just dish it."
Tug Valley finished with 18 assists as a team to just eight turnovers.
The win was a great start for the Panthers as they attempt to win titles in back-to-back seasons - this year in a new class.
"Dropping down from AA to A and being the defending AA state 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). You have to give them credit. They stuck around, hung in there. They were fighting, battling on the boards, playing good, solid defense, but yeah, we were excited to come out the gate, but we eventually settled down and got into a rhythm."
For Notre Dame, junior Justin Goff finished with a team-high 14 points. Junior Cal Cistaro contributed 13 points and nine rebounds.