Panthers beat Miners in thriller


By Kyle Lovern - [email protected]



NAUGATUCK, W.Va. – Since Mingo Central became a school due to consolidation back in 2012, the Miners have not beaten Tug Valley in boys’ basketball.

Tuesday night was no different as the Panthers pulled out a 45-44 win over the Miners at the TVHS gym at Naugatuck before a packed and stuffy house. Tug Valley is now 12-0 over MCHS.

Tug Valley controlled the tempo of the game in the first half and led 12-8 after the first quarter and 22-16 at the half.

Colby Savage scored six first quarter points for Tug Valley and Garrett Brown four to help the Panther of Coach Edwyn May take the early lead.

In the second quarter Levi Davis scored five, including a 3-pointer for the Panthers and Tyler May hit his only basket of the half, a 3-pointer, to give TVHS the 22-16 lead heading into the dressing room at the half.

Jeremy Dillon led Mingo Central with nine first half points, while Drew Hatfield added five.

Tug Valley outscored Mingo 12-11 in the third quarter and led 34-27 heading into the final eight minutes of play.

Mingo Central fought back in the final quarter and outscored Tug Valley 17-11. At the end of the third quarter and early in the fourth period, the Miners went on an 11-0 run. Dillon took over for Coach Kevin Hatfield’s squad. He hit a long trey, then a layup to end the third quarter. Then he hit another 3-pointer early in the final period to cut the lead to 34-33 at the 5:20 mark.

Savage stopped the run for Tug Valley with a nice baseline shot to make it 36-33. Then Dillon hit another basket to cut it back to a one-point lead 36-35 with 4:30 left in the contest.

After a Panther turnover, Mingo Central ran an inbounds play and senior Keyshean Rhodes scored his only basket of the game to give his team its first lead of the game at 37-36.

Then after a Panther miss, the Miners pushed the ball up the floor and Canaan Fletcher scored inside on a nice feed from Dillon to make it 39-36. After another turnover, Fletcher scored another basket down low to make it 41-36 and it seemed as though the Miners had the game in control.

May scored a basket for Tug Valley to make it 41-38 with 1:32 left in the game and Tug Valley was forced to foul to buy time.

Fletcher was fouled for MCHS and made 1-of-2 free throws to make it 42-38, but that gave Tug Valley fans some hope.

After a Panther miss, Dillon made 1-of-2 foul shots on a bonus situation to make it 43-38. However, Tug Valley’s Davis hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to two, 43-41 with 53.2 seconds left on the clock.

Mingo Central missed on their next opportunity and the Savage got the ball down low, drove base line and missed his first shot, but hustled and got his own offensive rebound and banked it in to tie the game at 43-43.

Tug Valley then fouled Rhodes, once again on the bonus situation. He swished his first foul shot to make it 44-43, but missed the second and after a mad scramble for the ball, May came up with it and drove the length of the floor and hit a 10-footer to give Tug Valley a one point lead with 4.8 seconds left in the heated contest. May was also fouled. However, the usually good free throw shooter missed and Dillon grabbed the rebound for Mingo Central and pushed the ball up the floor and the Miners’ coaching staff called a timeout with one second left to set up a play.

Tyler May said he wasn’t sure he was going to take the shot.

“I was honestly thinking about passing the ball. I saw Jonathan (Blankenship) running the floor,” he said.

But instinct over the May took the shot and thankfully for Tug Valley it went in and proved to be the game winner.

Mingo Central actually got a good alley-oop shot in that final second, but it fell short and Tug Valley’s great fan base rushed the floor in celebration of another victory over their county rival.

“It was a heck-uva high school basketball game,” a hoarse Coach May said after the game. “Both teams fought their guts out. I thought both teams did a good job of changing their defenses and trying to create tempo. I thought our zone in the first half really slowed them down. Then they came back with a zone against us in the second half. We got up by 12 and Tyler got frustrated when he was fouled by Buchanan and got that technical. I thought that switched that broke out momentum.

“We quit attacking the basket then. But – even though we got down by five, the kids kept fighting and had no quit. I love these kids.”

May said he went into the game wanting to play a slower pace and not get into a running game with the talented Miners squad.

“We didn’t want a racehorse type game. We tried to mix up our defenses,” he added. “I watched film of them against Lincoln County and that is what they did.”

Last year, there was a twist in the rivalry when former Tug Valley Coach Garland “Rabbit” Thompson left that school and became the coach at Mingo Central. Thompson resigned after one season and Kevin Hatfield was named the new head coach last summer.

Then this season junior all-state performer Jeremy Dillon was wearing Miner blue and grey instead of Tug Valley black and silver. Dillon transferred to Mingo Central last fall to play football and led the Miners to the Class AA state title and was named the Kennedy Award winner, given to West Virginia’s best high school football player.

Dillon led Mingo Central with 24 points and three assists, including three 3-pointers. Drew Hatfield finished with nine, Fletcher six, Rhodes three and Buchanan two.

Savage led Tug Valley with 13 points, followed by Brown with 11, Davis with 10, May with seven and Blankenship with four. Brown had four assists and May had three for TVHS.

Tug Valley, now 4-4 on the season, was 1-for-3 at the foul line for 33 percent and 20-for-49 from the field for 31 percent, including 4-for-13 from behind the arc.

Mingo Central, now 6-1, was 7-for-13 at the foul line for 54 percent and 16-for-45 from the floor for 35 percent, including 5-for-17 from 3-point land.

The Panthers (4-4) headed into the game ranked No. 11 in Class A, something they have not been accustomed to. Tug Valley has been one of the top Single-A teams in the state and before that one of the top Double-A teams when the won back-to-back titles back in 2012 and 2013.

The closest Mingo Central had come was in 2014 losing 55-53 and 55-51 in 2015. The Miners came in ranked No. 1 in Class AA.

Mingo Central travels to Winfield on Friday night for a Cardinal Conference matchup, while Tug Valley drives north to take on Clarksburg Notre Dame for a rematch. The highly ranked Irish beat Tug Valley in Naugatuck earlier in the season.

(Kyle Lovern is the Managing Editor for the Civitas Media Mountain District including the Williamson Daily News and Logan Banner. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)

By Kyle Lovern

[email protected]

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