LOGAN – Tears were flowing heavily down the cheeks of the Mingo Central players in their dressing room after their heartbreaking 56-54 loss to Scott.
It was a tough loss for the Miners players and fans.
The Class AA Region 4, Section 2 semifinal was played in front of a packed house at Willie Akers Arena in Logan on Thursday.
“I’m proud of them – they really battled,” said Mingo Central first year head coach Brad Napier. “I think Scott played one of their best games of the season.”
The Miners hurt themselves by falling behind early and trailed 17-6. Four early turnovers cost them and the Skyhawks took advantage. Scott came out red-hot, hitting three first quarter 3-pointers.
On the other hand, Mingo Central came out cold.
“We always seem to get off to a slow start,” Napier said. “For whatever reason, that’s happened a lot this year.”
But Mingo Central continued to fight back and outscored Scott 20-12 in the second quarter to cut the lead to 29-26 at the half. They picked up their intensity on defense and went on a run.
Trailing 29-22, freshman Stevie Hammond connected on a 3-pointer. Then Alex Lee hit a layup on transition. Marqus Cunningham made a put-back and then hit another fast break layup on a nice pass from Austin Banks.
The momentum shifted toward the Miners heading into the dressing room at the half.
Junior Julius Hatcher, who had a career night, hit a pair of 3-pointers and had eight points to keep his team close in the first half.
Matt Dolan and Logan Webb each had six points for the Skyhawks in the first half.
But Scott came out on fire again in the second half. They went on a nice run and took a 38-29 lead with 4:06 left in the third quarter. Napier called a timeout to try to break the momentum of the boys from Madison.
Mingo stepped up their defense, at times pressing full-court, and cut the lead to 42-38 heading into the final quarter.
That’s when Mingo’s Hatcher caught fire. He hit a pair of long 3’s. Then Banks hit a floater in the lane, which gave the Miners their first lead at 46-45.
With the game tied 48-48 after a Banks jumper, Scott’s Cody Brown connected on a shot behind the arc to give his team a 51-48 lead.
Hatcher swished in another 3-pointer to tie the game at 51-all for Mingo Central with 3:56 left in the game.
Scott took a 55-51 lead with just under 2:00 left in the contest. From that point the game seemed to shift toward the Skyhawks.
Leading 56-53, Banks was fouled. He hit 1-of-2 at the line to cut it to 56-54, and then Mingo was forced to foul to stop the clock. Dylan Brown missed the front end of the one and one and the Miners had one more chance to tie the game or take the lead.
They got off a couple of contested shots around the basket, but it wasn’t meant to be. The black and gold Skyhawks fans rushed the floor and the powder blue clad Miners fans could do nothing but console their team.
The Miners shot 19-55 from the floor for 46 percent, including 8-27 3-pointers for 35 percent. They made 8-14 at the foul line for 57 percent.
Hatcher had a career high 20 points for Mingo Central including six 3-pointers. Banks finished with 15 points, eight assists and five rebounds. Cunningham had nine points, eight boards and a pair of blocks. Lee had six points and six rebounds, while Hammond chipped in four points.
“Julius (Hatcher) shot well. He seems to play big in big games,” Napier said. “I’m proud of these guys. They battled all season. They have had three coaches in two years. But, they never questioned anything and worked hard in practice.”
“I will really miss out seniors,” Napier added. “They have been leaders on this team and did it the right way.”
Banks, Cunningham, Matt Lester, Garth Simpkins, Zack Barker and Jason West suited up for the last time in a Miner basketball uniform.
Dolan led Scott with 16 points, while Cody Brown had 13 and Webb scored 11.
Scott was to face Tolsia for the sectional title at 7 p.m., Saturday night. Tolsia defeated Chapmanville38-35 in that semi-final game.
Score by quarters:
MCHS …. 6 20 12 16 - 54
SHS …. 17 12 13 14 - 56
Mingo Central (13-10) - Hammond 4, Lee 6, Cunningham 9, Hatcher 20, Banks 15. Totals: 19 8-14 54.
Scott (14-9) - May 8, Dolan 15, C. Brown 14, Webb 11, Sigmon 2, Lafauei 3, D. Brown 3. Totals: 22 6-11 56.
3-point goals: Scott - May 2, Brown 2, Webb, Lafauei; Mingo - Banks, Hatcher 6, Hammond.