Tuscarora boys advance to first state final with victory over Loudoun Valley, 65-40

Tuscarora basketball Head Coach Michael Newkirk has been a part of Husky basketball since the school opened in 2010. He’s helped shape the culture of Tuscarora basketball as he coached the girls team for nine years before becoming the boys head coach in 2019.

And now, in his 14th year, he’s led Tuscarora basketball to its first state championship game, after a 65-40 win over Loudoun Valley.

“It feels surreal,” Coach Newkirk said after a joyful celebration with the team. “It’s always something you envision. I’m overcome with emotion because at the beginning of the season I lost my grandfather, and my great-aunt. I’m blessed to have outstanding coaches and an outstanding team, and I’m blessed to be surrounded by such supportive individuals.”

The Huskies were led by senior guard TJ Duggan who recorded 22 points, five rebounds and five assists. Duggan credited the team’s win to its high intensity and chemistry.

“Today we definitely wanted it more,” TJ Duggan said. “We’re very close as a team, and we stay together.”

Coach Newkirk also complimented the team’s bond and how it contributes to their success.

“They have a true bond,” Coach Newkirk said. “Every year you talk about chemistry, brotherhood, and being together – they are the definition of that. Basketball or not, they’re all together. There’s a genuine bond. The season is going to give you adversity, and it helps because they always look inward, not outward. Their bond is a testament to our success.”

Tuscarora Michael Newkirk cheers along with the Tuscarora fans during Friday night’s victory.

Just a week ago, Loudoun Valley defeated Tuscarora 58-55 in the Region 4C Championship. But Coach Newkirk knew that the Huskies just needed to stick with their identity.

“We just had to get back to who we were,” Coach Newkirk said. Valley is a tough team to play and that’s a well coached team – Coach Dawson has been doing this a long time.”

The first quarter was closely contested as the teams traded baskets early on and eventually found themselves tied at 14 with 2:30 left in the first quarter. But the Huskies ended the quarter on a 7-2 run, including TJ Duggan driving and dishing a pass to junior forward Isaac Ure, who sank a shot at the buzzer.

Tuscarora took control of the game in the second quarter as the Huskies held the Vikings to eight points. TJ Duggan and senior guard Payton Williams combined for 11 points, to help give Tuscarora a 34-24 lead at halftime. Williams also had a big night for the Huskies totaling 13 points, four assists and four rebounds.

“Normally I’m shooting from the outside more but I had some drives and my floater was going in so I kept attacking,” TJ Duggan said. “[Coach Newkirk] had a good game plan for us.”

Huskies senior TJ Duggan (22 points) said Tuscarora had a good game plan going into the game.

The Huskies carried their momentum into the second half as they started the third quarter on a 7-1 run. Tuscarora’s defense again held the Vikings to just eight points in the quarter and entered the final period with a 46-32 lead.

“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well tonight, but we attacked and set the tone,” Coach Newkirk said. “We were aggressive, and our defensive keys were hit. TJ’s ability to be effective off the bounce – you’ve gotta respect that. His ability to finish but also be a willing passer and find the open guy is a great option to have. We played a pretty complete game. When we were able to put all three phases together, you see the outcome.”

Tuscarora handedly closed the game out by outscoring Loudoun Valley 17-8 in the fourth quarter. After the win, the Huskies student section stormed the court to celebrate the team’s trip to the state championship game.

“We’re blessed to have that support,” Coach Newkirk said. “Tuscarora athletics is outstanding, starting with our Athletic Directors.”

Tuscarora will take on Hampton High School in the Class 4 State Championship at 2:30pm on Friday, March 8th at the Siegel Center in Richmond, Virginia.

–TJ Davis