RED JACKET, W.Va. – Mingo Central got the proverbial monkey off their back when it comes to playing Tug Valley in boys’ basketball.
On Tuesday night, before a packed house on Miner Mountain, the Miners defeated the Panthers 74-53 for the first time in school history.
Tug Valley had won the previous 12 games, but Mingo Central jumped out to an early lead and went on to win the game between the county’s only two high schools.
Mingo Central jumped out to a 14-3 lead early in the first quarter and Coach Edwyn May called two early timeouts in an attempt to break the momentum and to get his team more focused.
“We came out and they were scared and played intimidated,” May said. “We weren’t ready to play. We did none of the things we did the first game in order to beat them. We didn’t stop the ball in transition and we didn’t rebound the ball. We didn’t stop the penetration on defense – not like we did the first game. We were flat out not ready to play.”
The Panthers beat the Miners 45-44 back in January at the TVHS gym.
“They were ready to play. It meant more to them than it did to us,” May said. “I came into the locker room before the game and they were all relaxed. I don’t know what they were thinking. But, you have to give them credit. It meant more to them.”
Mingo Central coach Kevin Hatfield said it was a good win by his team.
“We were ready to play. I thought we would be. I thought our guys knew that the game at Tug Valley wasn’t indicative of who we are as a team,” Hatfield said. “We have gotten a lot better. I think beating Sissonville and Chapmanville on the road has given us more confidence.”
Junior all-state candidate Jeremy Dillon scored seven early points to lead his team to an early 19-8 lead after one quarter of play. In the second quarter sophomore forward Canaan Fletcher scored eight points and Dillon six more to give the Miners a comfortable lead.
Mingo led 35-15 after Wes Milam swished two free throws. Milam came off the bench to give the Miners a spark in the second quarter scoring four points.
Tug Valley’s Tyler May fired in a 3-pointer to stop the bleeding, however Mingo freshman Drew Hatfield answered with a driving layup and was fouled. He completed the old-fashioned three-point play to give his team another 20-point lead.
Mingo Central went into the dressing room leading 40-22. Dillon finished with 13 in the first half. Fletcher scored 12 and Hatfield nine. May had a pair of treys for six points in the first half, however he was held scoreless in the second half.
But give Tug Valley credit, specifically junior center Colby Savage. He scored nine third quarter points and the Panthers outscored Mingo 12-8 in the third quarter to cut into the lead, 48-34.
May said at halftime Mingo Central had taken 22 shots, and 17 of them were in the paint for high percentage shots. He knew his team missed some early shots, but May said, “you have to play through tough stretches. We didn’t do that and did not compete. I was disappointed.”
Early in the final quarter Tug Valley kept battling and trimmed the lead to 51-40 on a pair of free throws from junior Garrett Brown with 4:11 left in the game.
But at that point the team continued to trade points. With 3:32 left in the game, junior Jonathan Blankenship, Tug Valley’s best defender, picked up his fifth foul.
Mingo Central missed some free throws at that point which gave Tug Valley fans some hope.
Brown nailed a long 3-pointer to cut the lead to 53-43, but the Panthers had to start fouling in an effort to buy time on the game clock.
But the Miners coaching staff called a timeout to change their press-break and tried to get the ball into the hands of Dillon and Hatfield, their two best free throw shooters.
Dillon nailed 8-of-9 down the stretch and Hatfield made 8-of-10 in the final quarter to help the Miners build back their lead. Fletcher nailed three more foul shots and Mingo Central fans were soon able to savor the victory.
“I thought we played hard. I was disappointed with our effort in the third quarter because we stopped pushing the ball. We ran offense, but we didn’t get good shots. We missed some foul shots early in the fourth quarter, but we hit a bunch at the end,” Hatfield said.
MCHS outscored TVHS 26-19 in the final quarter.
“We have to work on our foul shooting. We may have to make some changes (in the lineup) in the final minutes, or that will get us beat,” Hatfield added. “I thought Jeremy and Drew played well on offense – and Canaan played well, especially in the first half. I’m glad to get a win. We are trying to get ready for the tournament at this point. We want to get to the state tournament.”
Dillon led Mingo Central with 25 points, while Hatfield added 21 and Fletcher 15. Senior Keyshean Rhodes finished with six points, but played a solid defensive and floor game. Milam scored four for MCHS, Josh Reed two and Aaron Banks one.
Banks led the team with nine rebounds, Fletcher pulled down eight, Dillon had seven and Rhodes six. Both Rhodes and Hatfield had four assists to lead the Miners in that stat.
Savage and Brown led Tug Valley with 13 points each, while Mason Layne came off the bench to score nine. Levi Davis and May both finished with six, Blankenship four and Bryson Preece two points.
Mingo Central finished 33-for-40 at the foul line for 83 percent, with Dillon making 11-for-12 and Hatfield 10-of-13. Tug Valley was 6-of-12 at the free throw line for 50 percent.
Mingo Central, now 14-3, came into game ranked No. 3 in Class AA, while Tug Valley, now 10-8, is ranked No. 8 in Class A.
The Miners will travel to Wayne on Friday night. Then next Tuesday, Feb. 14, they host Chapmanville for a big Cardinal Conference and sectional game. Tug Valley will play host to Class A power St. Joe of Huntington Friday and then Man next Tuesday.
(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.)