LOGAN, W.Va. — If you’re a Tug Valley High School basketball fan rest assured.
Your team will be battle-tested and ready for the post-season sectionals in a month’s time.
Especially with this schedule.
The Tug Valley High School boys’ basketball team’s already tough schedule got even tougher on Friday night at Logan High School’s King Coal Classic as the Panthers faced off against Class A No. 2-ranked Ravenswood.
The No. 9-ranked Panthers fought hard and put up a good effort but it was not enough as the Red Devils walked away with a 53-48 victory in front of a large crowd at Logan’s Willie Akers Arena.
The loss dropped Tug Valley to 7-7 on the season, while Ravenswood, with only one loss to date, improved to 13-1. The Red Devils’ lone loss this season so far was a 64-61 setback on Dec. 21 to St. Marys.
The Panthers faced a top-notch opponent in a tournament for the second straight weekend.
Last Saturday night, Tug Valley played hard but lost 55-47 to Class AA No. 4-ranked Poca in Williamson’s Hatfield-McCoy Shootout.
“They were ranked 12-1 on the season and ranked number two in the state,” Tug Valley coach Edwyn May said of Ravenswood. “We felt like we shot the ball real well tonight. In the first half we felt like we struggled defensively a little bit. In the second half, we picked our defense up. But we missed so many easy shots. We missed four or five wide open layups in the first half and that just kills you.”
May said his team played hard in the losing cause.
“The effort was there, though, and we feel like we are very very close,” he said. “We just have to keep competing and play out our schedule. We knew how tough our schedule was going to be coming in. We can’t get down on ourselves and we have to keep competing. Games like this make you better down the road.”
Tug Valley led by five points early in the game, but fell behind 17-13 after one quarter and never were able to regain the lead.
Ravenswood led 25-19 at the half and 39-35 after three, despite the Panthers tying the game at 31 in the third stanza.
It remained close in the fourth quarter.
Tug Valley was able to cut the Ravenswood lead to just one point at 47-46 with 47.2 ticks to go as Jonathan Blankenship split from the foul line.
Ravenswood’s Hayden Mandrake then hit two free throws to push the lead back to three at 49-46 with 34.8 seconds left.
The Panthers’ Levi Davis kept his team in it with a running bank shot with 21 ticks to go, trimming it back to one at 49-48.
Ravenswood’s Jayden Rhodes was then hacked with 11.2 ticks remaining and hit both free throws to make it a 51-48 ballgame.
Tug Valley then needed to get a 3-point shot off quickly in order to send the game to overtime, however, Ravenswood then smartly fouled Blankenship with 4.7 seconds left.
Tug’s only hope was for Blankenship to make the first free throw, then intentionally miss the second one and hope that a Panther gets the rebound and the putback to complete a three-point play and send the game to the extra period.
Blankenship, however, clanged the first free throw of the one-and-one off the rim and the Red Devils snared the rebound and was fouled. A couple more free throws by Riley Heatherington then sealed the deal with 3.6 seconds showing on the clock.
Heatherington led Ravenswood with 17 points. The Red Devils also got 13 points from Stephen Dawson, a rain-thin 6-foot-9 center. Isiah Morgan had nine points, while Rhodes had eight and Mandrake six.
Heatherington added 12 rebounds and four blocked shots. Dawson had eight boards.
Tug Valley was paced by Blankenship’s 20 points. Tyler May and Davis tossed in 11 points apiece and Garrett Brown had four points.
The Panthers made 21-of-50 shots from the floor for 42 percent and were just 3-for-5 from the free throw line. Ravenswood was 20-for-42 shooting for 48 percent and 10-of-13 from the free throw line for 77 percent.
The Red Devils outrebounded Tug Valley 28-14 for the game. The Panthers had just one offensive board.
Tug Valley grabbed a 7-2 lead early on with Blankenship’s layup at the 6:16 mark of the first quarter. The game was tied 7-7 but Blankenship put the Panthers ahead with a layup just moments later.
The Red Devils led 17-13 after one and led 25-19 at the intermission.
Tug Valley went on a 7-2 run in the third quarter after a Davis 3 and another Davis hoop to trim the deficit to 29-26.
Later on, Blankenship drilled a 3-pointer and then scored on a layup, tying the game at 31 with 3:20 left in the third quarter and forcing the Red Devils to call timeout.
Ravenswood would later take a 39-35 lead after a 3 by Dawson with just three seconds left in the period.
In the fourth, Heatherington gave RHS a 45-37 lead with a baseline shot with 5:31 left as Coach May and the Panthers called timeout.
Tug Valley then kept chipping away at the lead but could not get any closer than one point the rest of the way.
Coach May said his team and fans like playing in the field house at Logan. A large crowd of fans made the short trip from Tug Valley, so it was basically a home game for the Panthers, which also wore its home whites and were the home team on the scoreboard.
“The kids like coming to play in places like this,” May said. “We enjoy coming over here to play. It’s a good atmosphere and a good environment and it’s fun. You want to win but you know that it is not always the case.”
Tug Valley hopes to bounce back this week and have several big games ahead.
The Panthers play at Huntington St. Joe on Tuesday night at 7:30, then play at Belfry (Ky.) on Wednesday before going to county rival Mingo Central on Feb. 7.
The Panthers beat both Belfry and Mingo Central earlier in the season at home by 63-51 and 45-44 scores.
Tug Valley then plays Huntington St. Joe again on Feb. 10, this time at home, then has a home-and-home series with winless 2A team Man on Feb. 14 and Feb. 17 before hosting Class AAA Hurricane in the regular season finale on Feb. 23.
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).