Tug Valley High School was opened in 1987 as the consolidation of Lenore and Kermit High Schools. In the years since its opening, the school has become a force to be reckoned with in West Virginia high school basketball world. The boys’ basketball team, the Tug Valley Panthers, have won multiple championship games and continued the tradition of basketball in the region.
Panthers vs Wolfpack
After its opening, Tug Valley’s two greatest rivals were Tolsia High School and Williamson High. A fight between fans at a game between Tug Valley and Williamson during Tug Valley’s first season in 1988 pushed the rivalry with the Williamson Wolfpack to the forefront. Since Williamson High School’s closing in 2011, Tug Valley and Mingo Central High School have been the only two high schools in the county. This has led to an intense rivalry between the two schools.
Playoffs and Prominent Players
In 1999, two years after the Panthers made their first appearance at a state tournament, they won their first state title. Since then, they have won two more state titles. The 2011 basketball team won class A, making them the first public school to win the title since the renowned Williamson Wolfpack in 2001.
Among the best players, the Panthers have ever known is Greg Davis. He’s the number one scorer in the history of the county, with a total of 324 points. Greg, who was number 2 on the team, won West Virginia State Player of the Year in 2000 and spent time playing for the University of Charleston after high school. Frankie Smith, who coached the Panthers in 1999, went on to coach basketball at Miami University in Ohio.
Bradley Damron, a local fan of the team, feels that while high school sports, in general, are popular in the area, basketball is more special to folks in the area. He believes that this is because of the pride it brings to the community and the students in the schools. “This area is very rural and often feels forgotten. It sometimes feels like the rest of the state forgets that we exist…and then for the month of March most years, a lot of the state remembers Mingo County,” Damron said. “It becomes a source of pride for the communities. If someone says Tug Valley or Williamson, people think of basketball.”
When asked about the future of the game for the Tug Valley Panthers, Damron says that though the population will continue to change, and new students will continue to go through the school, the community’s passion for the team will stay constant. “You grow up watching the community get excited about the players on the current team. That has to have an impact. Seeing the championship banners have to have an impact. The population may decline, but I don’t see the passion disappearing as long as Tug Valley exists,” says Damron.