Tug Valley's Austin Brewer (left) looks to pass to teammate Aaron Muncy (right) while Charleston Catholic's Andy Hoyer defends during Wednesday's game at the Civic Center.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It was supposed to be a showdown - No. 1 vs. No. 2. The best of the best in Class A. Perhaps a preview of what's to come next month at the state tournament.Tug Valley would have none of it.The steady senior tandem of Mikey Newsome and Austin Brewer combined for 41 points Wednesday afternoon as the Panthers thumped Charleston Catholic 61-38 at the Civic Center, the keynote game of the "Shootout at the Big House.''Newsome knocked down 7 of 8 shots in one stretch and finished with 23 points for top-ranked Tug (16-3), and Brewer tallied 18 points with eight rebounds.The Panthers also cracked down defensively on the No. 2 Irish (16-3), holding them to 30 percent shooting and helping force 15 turnovers.It marked the lowest point total for the Irish in three years and represented their worst loss since a 64-37 setback at Parkersburg Catholic on Dec. 26, 2009."We came up with the mindset of getting down and playing defense,'' Newsome said. "We didn't care how many points we scored. We wanted to shut them down defensively. We knew [Garret] McCarty was good. We knew [Nick] George was good. We just wanted to slow them down a little bit.''
George and McCarty, the top two scorers for the Irish, went just 6 of 22 shooting, with George scoring 10 points and McCarty seven. McCarty did donate seven steals, however and Zach Casto grabbed 11 rebounds.Tug Valley also led off the boards 32-26 with Thomas Baisden nearly pulling off a minimum double-double (nine points, nine rebounds)."They got up in our grill,'' said Catholic assistant Fred McPherson, who again took over coaching duties with Matt Morrison due to the absence of head coach Bill McClanahan, who missed his third game in a week because of his job."That's as good a defensive ballclub as we're going to see all year long. They shut our drives down. They knew everything we were going to do, and they played very, very physical.''
The game was tied at 11 after one quarter, with Catholic uncharacteristically falling in love with the 3-point shot. The Irish were 2 of 10 from long range in the first quarter.But Tug didn't start breaking it open until the second quarter, when three straight goals by Newsome sparked an 8-0 run that gave the Panthers the lead for good."Sometimes I want it in my hands a little too much,'' Newsome said with a laugh, "and my teammates get mad at me. I wanted to come out and play defense in the first quarter and slow McCarty down, and find my shot in the second quarter.''While the Irish were playing bombs away, Tug Valley was seeking - and getting - good shots inside the foul lane. The Panthers made 25 of 47 field goals for 53 percent.
"We called a timeout,'' McPherson said, "and told them to take the ball to the basket. We were taking entirely too many outside shots - trying to get back in the game all at once instead of trying to go to the basket, then get a stop and get a 2, then get a stop.''Catholic wound up 3 of 20 from beyond the 3-point line. Tug was 3 of 4."We caught them probably at a good time,'' said Panthers coach Garland Thompson. "They played last night [a win at Buffalo] and they didn't have their coach here tonight. That is a huge difference. We did play pretty good and they struggled a little bit, but I promise you we'll see those guys again."When you know you have to play Catholic, you circle that thing back in November. We happened to play a very good game this time. We're thankful and we move on. These kids have played so many big games before that they know what this was about and were ready for what they came into.''McPherson didn't think having played an emotional game the previous night against a sectional opponent had anything to do with the outcome."I'm not going to use that as an excuse,'' McPherson said, "and Coach McClanahan wouldn't use it as an excuse, either. Because if you play in the state tournament, you have to play Thursday and turn around and play at noon Saturday. Their enthusiasm wasn't as big tonight because [Tuesday] was a sectional opponent, I guess, but this was a big game.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.