NEWTOWN – The matchup between the Mingo Central Miners and Belfry Pirates on the hardwood has been dubbed the Tug River Rivalry. The atmosphere was exciting Tuesday as the fan base from both schools resembled that of college fans.
In the end Mingo Central pulled away to win 75-54 in a hard-fought battle.
The series between MCHS and BHS was tied (1-1) heading into this season. The Miners won on the first-ever meeting, 65-51 on December 13 of last year, while the Pirates edged the Miners at Belfry 70-69 last February.
On Tuesday night the rivalry continued, but with a different twist. The Miners are now coached by Brad Napier. Napier got his first taste of the rivalry.
“It was a big win – anytime it is a rivalry it’s a good win for the community and the kids,” an excited Napier said moments after the game.
So what did Napier think of his first taste of the rivalry between Belfry and Mingo Central. “It was good – a little intense,” Napier said. “Both cheering sections were amazing. I want to thank our students who came out and supported us – along with the other fans.”
Mingo Central jumped out to a 23-11 lead after the first quarter. Senior guard Matt Lester fired in a pair of 3-pointers to help the Miners get an early edge. Things leveled out in the second quarter as the Pirates outscored Mingo Central 15-13.
The Miners had trouble stopping 6-foot-5 senior Tony Messer. As usual the stocky center was a force down in the paint. He had a game high 27 points and hauled in 12 rebounds in a losing effort.
“He has been consistent with that,” Casey said of Messer. “The other guys will have to step up. But they will. Josh Robinson will get in better shape. (He and others got a late start for basketball because of the deep run in the football playoffs.) Brett Charles didn’t have his usual good game. He’ll be back on track. I’m not discouraged. I’m going home to watch film and we’ll fix the things we need to fix and get better.”
For Mingo Central, their scoring was a little more balanced. Junior forward Alex “Booger” Lee had a team- high 21 points, while junior guard Julius Hatcher had 13, including four 3-pointers and senior point guard Austin Banks added 12. Banks also dished out 15 assists.
Lester finished nine points, while Stevie Hammond and Chase Hatfield had seven and six off the bench.
Cody Charles added nine for Belfry, while Robinson scored seven and Cameron Johnson six.
“We feel like we can play 10 or 11 kids,” Napier said of his rotation. “We’re a type of team that on different nights some players will get more minutes. Whoever we think has the hot hand and is playing well at the time – that’s who we are going to go with.”
Mingo Central led 36-26 at the half. They went up by 10 as Hatcher swished in a trey from the corner at the buzzer.
Belfry’s Messer had 15 at the half, while Lee scored 10 in the first half to lead Mingo.
The Pirates continued to battle in the third quarter, but a 14-4 run by the Miners gave Napier’s team a 56-43 lead.
“I didn’t think our defense was that good tonight. All season our defense has been pretty good most nights and our offense was up and down,” Napier said. “But, tonight our offense was better and our defense was slacked a little bit. So I just want to put a game together where we have both good offense and defense.”
“They made shots,” Belfry coach Randy Casey said. “We get them in situations that they take quick shots – ones we wanted them to take, but they make them. That is hard to overcome.”
“We made two or three runs there, but for whatever reason those were stopped,” Casey added. “To their credit – Hatcher made big shots. Banks played really well – he is a great player. Hatcher has really improved. They have a nice team.”
“It just showed us what we have to work on to become a good basketball team,” Casey added.
Marqus Cunningham, Mingo’s 6-foot-6 senior center, only scored two points, but he hauled in nine rebounds and blocked four shots. Like other players, he has been battling the flu bug.
The Miners connected on 12-18 at the free throw line for 66 percent, while the Pirates made 14-24 for 56 percent. Belfry ended the game shooting 42 percent from the floor making 20-48 shots. They did not hit any 3-pointers.
Mingo Central shot 45 percent from the field hitting 30-67 shots, but they made nine 3-pointers.
Belfry had 15 turnovers in the game, while Mingo Central committed only seven turnovers.
Mingo Central is now 4-1 on the season and will travel to Herbert Hoover on Friday night. Belfry is now 2-1 for the season and will host Riverside Christian tonight and travel to Betsy Layne on Saturday. The following weekend the Pirates will host the annual Mountain Schoolboy Classic.
Score by quarters:
BHS (2-1)…. 11 15 17 11 – 54
MCHS (4-1)…. 23 13 20 19 – 75
Belfry (54) – Cody Charles 4 1-2 9; Josh Robinson 1 5-7 7; Tony Messer 12 3-4 27; Cameron Johnson 2 2-6 6; Kaleb Edwards 0 1-2 1; James Ford 1 0-0 2; Sean Hurley 0 0-0 0; and Trinity Carr 0 2-2 2. Totals: 20 14-25 54.
Mingo Central (75) – Austin Banks 3 6-6 12; Matt Lester 0(3) 0-0 9; Julius Hatcher 0 (4) 1-2 13; Alex Lee 10 1-2 21; Marqus Cunningham 1 0-0 2; Chase Hatfield 0(2) 0-0 6; Jason West 0 1-4 1; Garth Simpkins 1 0-0 2; Zack Barker 1 0-0 2; and Stevie Hammond 2 3-4 7. Totals: 18 (9) 12-18 75.