By Kyle Lovern
NAUGATUCK – The Tug Valley Panther took the first step on making it back to Charleston for the state tournament as they downed the Van Bulldogs 73-65 in semi-final action of Class A Region 4, Section 2 of the tournament Tuesday night at the TVHS gym.
The Panthers jumped out to a 22-8 lead after one quarter and led 38-18 at halftime.
Van outscored Tug Valley 47-35 in the second half to cut into the lead, but the Panthers held on for the win and will advance to the sectional championship on Friday night.
Tug Valley placed three players in double figures led by junior all-state guard Tyler May with 29. May was a perfect 12-12 at the free throw line and made a trio of 3-pointers. Junior guard Levi Davis scored 16 points, while junior forward Garrett Brown added 12.
May and Brown each had five assists and Davis dished out four.
All-stater Taylor Jarrell led Van with 34 points.
Van was 23-59 from the floor for 39 percent, including 9-22 from behind the arc. They were 10-17 at the foul line.
Tug Valley was 23-52 for 44 percent, including 6-15 from 3- point range and 21-27 at the foul line for 79 percent.
Tug Valley will now host St. Joe for the sectional title. The have beaten the Irish two times during the regular season. St. Joe is the defending Class A state champs, but was hit hard by graduation. They are led by all-state candidate Deaundre Murphy.
The game time is slated for 7:00 p.m. on Friday.
Score by quarters:
Van: 8 10 20 27 – 65
Tug Valley: 22 16 15 20 – 73
Van (65): A. Gibson 3, D. Gibson 5, T. Jarrell 34, C. Price 8, C. Price 2, G. Smith 9.
Tug Valley (73): J. Blankenship 5, B. Preece 2, T. May 29, G. Brown 12, L. Davis 16, C. Savage 2, M. Layne 7.