By Kyle Lovern
RED JACKET – Tuesday night’s basketball game between Tug Valley and Mingo Central was more like a heavyweight championship boxing match.
The Miners had the Panthers on the ropes and time was running out. But, in the final round, Tug Valley delivered the knockout blow and came away with a 55-53 road win before a near capacity crowd at the MCHS gym.
There is an old sports cliché that says “they snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.” That phrase was fitting on Tuesday night. Mingo Central has not beaten Tug Valley since the new consolidated school was opened and it looked as though they were finally going to get over the hump.
Once again the atmosphere was fantastic and student cheering sections and older fans alike got into the game. Just one week earlier the two local rivals met and the game went into overtime, with Tug Valley pulling that one out.
What’s more impressive for Coach Garland “Rabbit” Thompson’s squad is that at one point they were down 10 points and trailed for most of the game.
“We stole this one tonight,” a smiling Thompson said in the visitor’s dressing room after the exciting contest. “Aaron Copley hit a huge three right there to tie the game. That was big.”
Thompson was referring to Copley’s trey that swished through the nets to tie the game at 53-53 with just seconds left in the final quarter. Then Mingo Central came down and missed a quick shot and Panther guard Shane Marcum ended up with the basketball. He drove the length of the floor, dished off a nice pass to Thomas Baisden, who made a layup to give Tug Valley a 55-53 lead with just 1.8 seconds left in the game.
“We somehow got a stop, and Shane, the littlest man on the floor, somehow got the ball to the biggest man out there and Thomas put it in,” Thompson said of the final basket. “That is one of the biggest baskets of this season. I’m tickled to death with this win.”
The Miners tried to inbounds the ball with a long length of the floor pass, but it was deflected and Baisden came up with it and the visiting Panther fans and players celebrated another close win.
Mingo Central led 13-9 after one quarter of play and 29-22 at halftime. Both teams started out a little tentative, but then settled down.
Both coaches came out with full-court pressure and constantly switched defenses and made substitutions trying to outwit the other.
Baisden, a senior captain, led Tug Valley with 11 first half points, all down low or from the free throw line. Both Alex “Booger” Lee and Dikembe Dixson scored 9 first half points for the Miners.
The game was close, but Mingo Central was able to keep a slight advantage. Coach Brad Napier’s squad led 40-30 with 2:02 left in the third quarter.
“The kids had more hope than I did there in the fourth quarter,” Thompson admitted. “When we were down by 10, with just a few minutes to play, I thought we were in trouble,” he added. “But, they didn’t quit and that is a testament to them. They dug in and played hard – overcame an insurmountable lead and found a way to win.”
Thompson dubbed his team the “cardiac kids” because they keep finding ways to win. Tug Valley has pulled out several close ball games in the last week. “If this doesn’t get you ready for the tournament, I don’t know what will. That was definitely a tournament –like atmosphere out there tonight.”
Tug Valley outscored Mingo Central 20-9 in the final quarter. The Miners only made one basket in the final 8:00 minutes of play. The rest came from the free throw line.
Early in the final quarter it seemed like the Miners would hold on, but they missed some key foul shots and committed a couple of big turnovers in the final minutes to let the game get away from them.
With 4:07 left in the game, Mingo led 50-42, and after a free throw by TVHS, Kyle Newsome canned a big 3-pointer to cut it to 51-46.
Mingo Central then tried to eat some time off the clock and force Tug Valley to foul. Mingo started shooting the double bonus with 2:17 left to play, while Tug Valley got into the double bonus with 1:59 left.
Mingo led 52-48 when TVHS sophomore guard Calvin Blankenship scored to cut it to 52-50. Then Lee was fouled with 39.2 seconds left on the clock and made 1-of-2 of his free throws to make it 53-50.
Soon afterwards Copley hit his huge 3-pointer, Baisden the game winner to pull out the victory and hand Mingo Central a heartbreaking defeat.
Mingo only scored one basket in the fourth quarter, a tip-in by Dixson. The rest of the points came at the foul line.
Thomas Baisden led Tug Valley with 15 points and 14 rebounds, while Copley and Hayden Sturgell each scored 11. Sturgell fouled out with 1:19 left in the game. Blankenship finished with 7, Newsome 6, Austin Baisden 2 and Shane Marcum 3.
Lee led Mingo Central with 14 points, while Dixson had 13 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots. Chase Hatfield had 8, Mallie May and Dalton Hatfield each scored 5, Stevie Hammond and Julius Hatcher 3, and Adam Dillon 2. Hammond handed out 6 assists and 6 steals.
Tug Valley turned the ball over 19 times, while Mingo had 12 turnovers.
MCHS was 15-35 from the floor for 43 percent, including 5-14 from 3-point land and 18-25 at the foul line for 72 percent. TVHS was 20-52 for 38 percent, including 4-10 from behind the arc. The Panthers were 11-16 at the charity stripe for 69 percent.
Tug Valley (15-5) still has one more regular season game, a rematch with sectional foe Greater Beckley Christian tonight (Thursday) at home. This is a makeup game postponed from earlier in the season. The tipoff is earlier than usual and will be at 6:00 p.m.
Mingo Central finishes the regular season at 11-11 and their next contest will be in the Region 4, Section 2 tournament next week against Chapmanville at the Logan Memorial Fieldhouse.
Score by quarters:
Tug Valley (15-5) - 9 13 13 20 – 55
Mingo (11-11) – 13 16 15 9 – 53
Tug Valley (55) – T. Baisden 15, Newsome 6, A. Baisden 2, Blankenship 7, Sturgell 11, Copley 11 and S. Marcum 3.
Mingo (53) – Hammond 3, May 5, Dixson 13, Lee 14, Hatcher 3, D. Hatfield 5, Dillon 2 and C. Hatfield 8.
(Kyle Lovern is the Sports Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at email@example.com or at 304-235-4242, ext. 33 or Twitter @KyleLovern)