CHARLESTON — Cold shooting and a lack of rebounding had a big impact on Friday as the Tug Valley High School basketball team fell to Wheeling Central 69-47 in the semifinals of the Class A State Tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.
The basketball season has come to an end for the Tug Valley Panthers thanks to the Wheeling Central Maroon Knights. Tug Valley entered the game ready to play and worked up a quick lead early in the first period. The momentum shifted late in the first period when Wheeling Central went on a 9-2 run over the Panthers and finished the first period ahead 18-12.
Brent Price hit a big 3-pointer to start off the second quarter for Wheeling Central and hit the Maroon Knights hit two more before the four-minute mark of the second. Tug Valley fell into a cold shooting slump from behind the arc and was forced to play with Wheeling Central under the basket.
The Panthers quickly realized they were playing their toughest opponent of the season.
Tug Valley chopped the Maroon Knights’ lead down to 11 points before a timeout was called by Wheeling Central at the 2:01 mark. Corbin Oliver and Calvin Blankenship hit two quick shots to give some of the momentum back to Tug Valley. Jeremy Dillon drove the lane and scored to put the Panthers within nine points until Wheeling Central’s John Burkhalter, hit a 3-pointer with 16 seconds remaining to put the Marron Knights back up by 12 points.
Wheeling Central carried the 12-point lead back into the locker room at halftime while the Panther fans waited in anticipation to see if the Panthers would come back firing.
The Maroon Knights scored on two shots before the Panthers went on a run that put them back within six points. Dillon nailed a 3-pointer and put in seven points while Calvin Blankenship and Tyler May added points as well to put the score at 36-30 in favor of Wheeling Central.
Burkhalter took back control and nailed two 3-pointers in a row for Wheeling Central to give the Maroon Knights back some breathing room. Tyler May added a 3-pointer before the third period ended but Wheeling Central added five points ending the third period with a score of 49-35.
The Panthers fought back but the Maroon Knights stayed away with the lead. Wheeling Central continued to increase their lead point by point in the fourth and ended the game winning by 22 points.
For Tug Valley, seniors like Calvin Blankenship, Corbin Oliver and Chandler Runyon this was the last run at a state championship. The Panthers have to lay to rest a great season that will be remembered for years to come.
“I felt like we came out ready to play today but, when Jeremy (Dillon) picked up that second quick foul that’s when they started to create separation. They (Wheeling Central) went on a quick run and really created good distance before the half. When key players pick up those quick fouls you are forced to change the way you call the game and players are forced to play the game differently,” said Tug Valley head coach Ed May. “We regrouped at halftime and came back with a run of our own. We got it back within six and probably could have kept going but we missed some easy shots and they started hitting 3-pointers like good teams do. After that we just couldn’t get back in it.
“We were very aggressive after halftime and were playing good defense. They killed us in the first half with rebounds but in the second half we were limiting them to only one shot, then we were the aggressor on offense but they just kept pulling away.”
Jeremy Dillon finished the game leading the Panthers in scoring with 15 points as he went 6 for 13 from the field. Tyler May finished the day with 13 points and went 3 for 9 from behind the 3-point line. Chase Harler led Wheeling Central in scoring with 27 points and seven rebounds.