NAUGATUCK — The Tug Valley High School gym has always been a tough place for opposing teams to play over the years.
It’s always packed and loud and the Panthers are sure to put forth their best effort.
Class A No. 10-ranked Man had a tough task on Tuesday as the Hillbillies went to Tug Valley and came away with an 87-74 loss to the No. 2 Panthers.
Man trailed Tug Valley (9-1) by as many as 22 points late in the third quarter and made a bit of a comeback late in the game but it wasn’t enough as the Billies lost to their Class A sectional rival in a face-paced game.
Tug Valley jumped on top of Man, taking a 31-20 lead after a furious first quarter. The Panthers then led 48-29 at the half and 68-47 after three.
Man was able to trim the margin down to 10 late in the fourth quarter with a Jake Adkins 3-pointer but could get no closer as time ran out on the Billies.
Man dropped to 8-3 on the season with the loss.
The Billies were led by John Thomas Keffer and Adkins, who each netted 22 points.
Kenny Jo Adkins finished with 13 points and seven assists, while Gabby Brown had nine points and nine rebounds.
Erik Files had six points. Cameron Simpson contributed two points and eight boards.
Jeremy Dillon and Calvin Blankenship each had double-doubles for the Panthers. Dillon poured in a game-high 26 points and also had 11 boards. Blankenship had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the night.
Chandler Runyon and Tyler May also reached double figures with 16 and 10 points respectively.
Garrett Brown had eight points, Jonathan Blankenship six, Corbin Oliver five and Colby Savage one point.
Man was 27-for-69 shooting from the floor for 39.1 percent. The Panthers had a much better night shooting the ball as Tug hit on 31-of-62 shots for an even 50 percent.
The Billies were 6-for-22 from behind the 3-point arc. Tug Valley was 7-for-23 from 3-point territory. Jake Adkins netted a trio of 3s, while Files had two and Kenny Jo Adkins one. Dillon, May and Brown had two treys each for the Panthers and Calvin Blankenship had one.
Man made 14-for-17 of its free throws and the Panthers were 18-for-31.
Tug Valley outrebounded Man 41-33. Tug had just 12 turnovers and Man 11.
The Panthers led 10-4 early after a Calvin Blankenship bucket.
Man cut it to 10-7 with a 3 by Files.
The Panthers later pushed the lead to 23-16 after a Garrett Brown 3. Dillon’s 3 at the buzzer gave the Panthers a 31-20 lead after one quarter of play.
The Billies got back into it in the second quarter after an old-fashioned three-point play by Keffer and two Gabby Brown free throws to trim the deficit to just 32-27.
Tug Valley then went on a 16-2 run to lead by 19 at the intermission.
Man battled foul trouble as Keffer and Brown each received three fouls by halftime.
The Panthers were then able to hold off the Billies to notch the win.
Man is scheduled to return to action with Thursday night’s home game against Ambassador Christian in a 7:30 p.m. tip at the Man Memorial Fieldhouse. The Billies then host Greater Beckley Christian on Jan. 26 and play a return game at Ambassador Christian on Jan. 28.
Man has a rematch with Tug Valley on Feb. 5 at home.
The Panthers host county rival Mingo Central on Friday night, weather permitting. Tug then plays Ravenswood on Jan. 29 in Logan High School’s King Coal Classic.
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).