CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Tug Valley coach Clyde Farley wasn’t sure what the Panthers’ practice Wednesday at West Virginia State would lead to ahead of Thursday’s Class A semifinal against Tucker County.
“It was our best practice of the year,” Farley said. “You never know what it’s going to mean, but we felt well prepared and implemented exactly what we wanted to do.”
After the top-seeded Panthers knocked off the fourth-seeded Mountain Lions 49-31, Tug Valley is one win away from its first state championship in girls basketball. The Panthers will battle No. 2 seed Cameron for the title.
“We’ve all grown up together playing and always talked about it,” said TVHS senior Makayla May, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds in the semifinal. “Now we’re actually getting to live it and it’s just crazy.”
While the Panthers (14-2) never trailed against Tucker, the Mountain Lions (17-5) hung around for a portion of the contest thanks to their defense. A 10-2 Panthers’ run over the final 4:01 of the opening half allowed Tug Valley to turn a three-point lead into a 23-12 halftime advantage.
After setting a state tournament record with nine three-pointers in a quarterfinal win over Pendleton County, Panthers’ guard Kaylea Baisden poured in 15 first-half points and added four steals. The Mountain Lions, meanwhile, had 13 turnovers and made only 3-of-17 shots.
“We couldn’t get out of our own way to begin with,” Tucker coach Dave Helmick said. “We got ourselves back together and got it down to two, but it was like we were fighting an uphill battle the whole way. Mentally, we were kind of out of it from the beginning. It almost felt like the girls were down by twenty when they were down eleven at halftime.”
Tucker started the second half in strong fashion and pulled to within 28-20 on a Brylee Wetzel layup with 3:28 remaining. Makayla May followed by scoring eight consecutive points for the Panthers, and Alyssa Newsome beat the third-quarter buzzer with a triple to give Tug Valley a 39-23 advantage.
“We were passive,” Helmick said. “We weren’t attacking and rotating the ball like we were supposed to. A lot of girls were unsure of themselves. We’re young and sometimes with a young team you get more out of them than you expect and sometimes it’s like today and you don’t get what you expect.”
The Mountain Lions never got the deficit inside of 15 in the fourth quarter. Tucker County finished with 32 field-goal attempts and 27 turnovers, while leading scorer Kadie Colebank was limited two two points and one field goal attempt.
“Not only did we hold her to two points, but we held her to one shot,” Farley said. “That might be the single most immpressive stat in my coaching career.”
Baisden finished with 17 points and nine rebounds. Newsome added 10 points.
Macy Helmick led the Mountain Lions with nine points.