NAUGATUCK – The battle in Mingo County between the Tug Valley Panthers and the Mingo Central Miners packed the house despite the weather conditions. Fans lined both sides of the bleachers at Tug Valley and watched as the No.2 Panthers beat Mingo Central 60-40.
The game had been much anticipated and excitement filled the gym. Both teams had been on a weeklong break due to the weather, and had only been able to practice once during that time. This aspect changed the game style as both coaches knew not to push the players too hard too fast. The players had other plans and were ready to prove who the best team in Mingo County is.
The Panthers shot right out of the gate and put together a 6-0 run. Mingo took the hit on the chin and then called a quick timeout to regroup. Tug Valley owned the first period pulling down most of the rebounds and scoring quick on their possessions. The score was 10-4, in favor of Tug Valley, with 2:00 left to play in the first when Mingo Central called their second timeout.
After the timeout, Mingo’s Josh Reed was forced to call another Mingo Central timeout after he was trapped between the out of bounds line and the half court line by the Panthers stingy defense. Tug Valley’s Chandler Runyon finished off the first period with a bang after he nailed a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left. Tug Valley owned the first period by outscoring the Miners 15-6.
The Miners entered the second period swinging hard. Mingo Central’s Dalton Hatfield got the hot shooting hand and Tug Valley got cold as ice. The Miners started chipping away at the Panthers lead and brought the game to within four points at 17-13, Tug Valley on top. Canaan Fletcher, from Mingo Central, drew the foul and headed to the free throw line. Fletcher nailed both free-throws and put the Miners within two points.
The Panthers scored four quick points and distanced themselves once again at 21-15. The Miners refused to give in and with 2:00 minutes left to play before halftime had brought the score within three points at 29-26. The rest of the first half was scoreless and both teams headed into the locker room.
The Panthers are known as a shooting team but had been cold through the entire first half. Runyon had made the only 3-pointer for Tug Valley. Mingo Central, on the other hand, had played their best half of basketball this season. The gam play had been physical and the referees were allowing it and turning the players loose. Mingo Central had regained senior Stephen Hammond who had been sidelined due to a football injury. Hammond provided a much needed physical pressure on the floor for the Miners.
After halftime, the game turned into a back and forth battle of the defenses. With 5:38 left to play in the third Mingo’s Aaron Banks was fouled on a 3-point attempt, the Miners were only down one point, and Banks made one of his three foul shots to tie up the ball game at 29. The Panthers grabbed some momentum back when Jeremy Dillon hit a big 3-pointer with 4:12 left to play in the third and the Panthers jumped up 32-29.
After Dillon’s 3-pointer the Panthers took off on a 13-2 run. The Panthers outscored Mingo Central 13-5 in the third period and both teams shot well below average in the third quarter. Mingo Central was not without their highlights because with time running out Hatfield through up a shot from back at half court, Fletcher caught the ball next to the rim and tapped it in with the game clock hitting zero. It was possibly the Miners most athletic move of the night.
The eleven point run the Panthers had put together in the third period transferred over to the fourth and the Panthers used it to their advantage. Tug Valley doubled the Miners score in the fourth period, outscoring them 18-9.
Dillon led the Panthers in scoring with 18 points on the night; he also went 9 of 9 from the free-throw line. Dillon is one of the Panthers absolute go to guys in any game. Chandler Runyon has been up and down for the Panthers this year but was in fine form Wednesday night, scoring 13 points and he went 6 for 6 from the free-throw line. Tyler May is the Panthers leading scorer, but off nights happen in the game of basketballand May was limited to only five points during the game.
The new name coming up in the Panthers eight man rotation is Colby Savage. Savage doesn’t get the biggest amount of playing time but when he gets in he makes it count. Savage earned four points during the game and assisted greatly on defense. Savage is younger and shows plenty of promise for his age. Calvin Blankenship chipped in eight points for the Panthers and once again controlled the tempo of the game. Blankenship is as quick as any player in West Virginia, after getting the rebound and pushing the ball up the floor.
Corbin Oliver gained most of his points on the Panthers signature back cut playing style. The Panthers are excellent at creating distance, finding the open man and making one more extra pass to keep the defense on the run.
Mingo Central played well throughout the game, but caught the cold shooting bug in the second half. Hatfield led the team in scoring with 12 points and nine rebounds. Hatfield has more help now that Kenny Allen, Stephen Hammond, Daniel Buchanan, and Canaan Fletcher can play the physical role down on the block. Fletcher is being worked into the offense nicely by Coach Garland Thompson and is fitting in well.
Josh Reed put in some great minutes for the Miners off the bench and handled himself well amongst the much larger Panthers. Buchanon had a tough showing during the game competing down low with Tug Valley’s high leaping guards. Buchanon made all of his points on foul shots after going 4 of 6 from the line.
The game was eventful to say the least. The bleachers were filled, the cheerleaders passed out small Panther basketballs to the fans; which later became an issue to the referees during the game, and school pride was represented on both sides of the court.
Mingo Central will move on to face Wayne on the road tonight (Friday) and the Panthers will travel to Logan to face Ravenswood Friday night.
Scores by quarter:
MC: 6 20 5 9 – 40
TV: 15 14 13 18 – 60
MC: Aaron Banks -3, Stephen Hammond -6, Josh Reed -2, Deonte Joplin -3, Dalton Hatfield -12, Kenny Allen -4, Canaan Fletcher -4, Wesley Milam -2, Daniel Buchanon -4,
TV: Jeremy Dillon -18, Johnath Blankenship -4, Chandler Runyon -13, Tyler May -5, Corbin Oliver -8, Calvin Blankenship -8, Colby Savage -4.
(William Plaster is the sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News, he can be reached at 304-235-4242 ext. 2274 or at [email protected] or on twitter @sidplaster)