CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Only six players saw action for Tug Valley in Tuesday’s Class A quarterfinal against Cameron.
It did nothing to slow down the second-seeded Panthers in the late stages of their matchup with the seventh-seeded Dragons at the Charleston Coliseum.
Tug Valley outscored Cameron by nine points in the fourth quarter to turn what was a tight contest into a relatively comfortable 69-55 victory.
“I’m hoping our conditioning took hold right there,” Tug Valley coach Garland “Rabbit” Thompson said. “I try to sub them in and out as best I can depending on flow and situation. I tell our kids all the time I think our practices are tough. I’ll put our practices up against anybody. Sometimes we have clunkers, but I’m hoping it wears on them and they have to be emotionally strong, because I’m constantly badgering them.”
The Panthers (14-2) advance to face No. 3 seed Pendleton County in a semifinal Thursday.
Senior guard Caleb May was again the catalyst for TVHS. May, who entered averaging more than 26 points per game, led all players with 32 and did so in efficient fashion, making 11-of-20 field goals and all eight of his free throws.
May also recorded eight of the 18 steals in the contest.
“Coach tells us defense wins championships. That was the main focus coming into today,” May said. “Defense turns into offense and we’ve been working on defense. That’s what it’s going to take for us to win.”
Six-foot-7 junior Trevor Beresford scored nine first-quarter points to stake the Dragons to a 15-11 lead.
Logan Burkett’s three-pointer in the second quarter allowed CHS to hold a 23-16 advantage, but things took a turn for the worse over the remainder of the half from that point forward.
May scored nine of his 21 first-half points over the final 3:44, including consecutive layups after the game was tied at 25 to send the Panthers into the break with a four-point lead.
“That was probably our best stretch of the game,” Thompson said.
Trailing 36-28, the Dragons got five points from Conner Powell during a 9-2 spurt to close to within one with 2:57 to play in the third.
But Ian Reed, Justin Hall and Ethan Colegrove each made fields goals in the late stages of the quarter to send the Panthers into the fourth with a 44-39 lead.
“I give credit to Tug Valley — they were in pretty good condition,” CHS coach Tom Hart said. “We thought we might be able to wear them out a little bit picking up full court on defense, but their guards are good and they held their composure. We tried to pressure them a little bit and they were able to handle it.”
Colegrove scored his team’s first five points of the fourth quarter, before Easton Davis and May combined for the Panthers’ next 14, with May accounting for eight.
The Dragons responded to a 55-44 deficit with an 11-6 run and were within six after Cole Burkett’s layup with 55 seconds remaining, but never scored again.
“Every time we’d get a little run, they’d do something and kept coming back,” Thompson said. “Luckily, whatever it is, we had enough of it inside us to pull that one out.”
Colegrove had 15 points (all in the second half) and eight rebounds, while Reed added eight points and nine rebounds. Davis also scored eight points in the win.
Beresford had 13 points and six rebounds, while Cole Burkett finished with 13 points, five boards and four assists. Reserve Lance Hartley led Cameron with eight rebounds as the Dragons held a 42-32 advantage on the glass in their first appearance at a state tournament.
“Our first time down here, we could’ve laid an egg and I don’t think we did that,” Hart said. “We proved we deserved to be here and earned our right to be here.”