CHAPMANVILLE - It’s shaping up to be one heck of a Class AA sectional basketball tournament in March.
If Friday night’s clash between sectional opponents Chapmanville Regional and Mingo Central is any indication it’s going to be must-see hoops come tournament time.
Mingo Central made a case for front-runner status with its 58-51 overtime win on the road at Chapmanville, improving to 3-0 overall and 3-0 in the Cardinal Conference.
The Miners, led by first-year head coach and former longtime Logan High School assistant Brad Napier, have already played and beaten another sectional foe, Tolsia, with a 48-47 squeaker in Glenhayes.
Mingo Central was scheduled to play another sectional heavyweight, the Scott Skyhawks, on Saturday night in Madison.
Chapmanville, led by its first-year coach Allan Hatcher, saw its season record level at 1-1 overall and 1-1 in the league.
The Tigers fell behind Mingo Central 30-13 at the intermission with a poor shooting first half that saw Chapmanville make just 4-of-20 shots from the floor.
Chapmanville trailed Mingo Central by as many as 19 points at 32-13 in the early minutes of the third quarter before making a big comeback.
The Tigers eventually caught the Miners - just in the nick of time - as 6-foot-4 senior forward/center Mackenzie Martin drilled a crazy fade-away 3-pointer off the dribble at the buzzer, tying the game at 48 and sending it to overtime.
Mingo Central then dominated the game in the extra period, getting the ball into smooth guard Austin Banks’ hands and outscoring the Tigers 10-3 to notch the win.
Banks was hacked often in OT and took full advantage of the situation by netting 7-of-8 free throws in the extra period. For the game, Banks poured in 28 points and was 15-for-16 from the foul line for a sizzling 93.8 percent.
Banks tied game-high honors with Martin, who also tossed in 28 points. He scored 15 of his points in the second quarter as the Miners outscored the Tigers 24-8 to take a 17-point edge at the break.
Napier, leading a team for the very first time in his coaching career, said Friday night’s game is a foreshadow of what will come in a ultra-tough and competitive sectional tournament.
“I try to tell these guys that all of these sectional games are going to be like this. They are all going to be wars,” Napier said. “All of the teams are very close. I’m happy that we squeaked out two wins against two sectional opponents and both of them were on the road. This was big for us.”
Mingo Central got it done despite not having the services of 6-6 senior center Marquis Cunningham, who did not make the trip from Newtown after reportedly feeling sick.
“We didn’t have our big guy tonight. He was out and he’s pretty much a double-double every night,” Napier said. “This was a big win for us.”
Napier praised the play of Banks who took charge in crunch time.
“He’s a senior and we lean on him a lot,” Napier said. “He’s a three-year starter and he’s played in the state tournament. He’s our most experienced player. We lean on him quite a bit.”
Mingo Central also won the game at the foul line, making 19-of-22 charity tosses for 86.3 percent. The Tigers were 17-for-24 for 70.8 percent.
Both teams didn’t shoot well from the floor, however, as the Tigers were 16-for-51 for 31 percent and the Miners were 16-for-43 for 37 percent.
Chapmanville outrebounded Mingo Central 31-23 for the game.
But the biggest stat of all was the Tigers’ ice-cold 4-for-20 (20 percent) shooting performance in the first half.
“I don’t know what happened to us in the first half,” Chapmanville first-year coach Allan Hatcher said. “We just came out flat. We were 4 out of 20 in the first half. When you don’t shoot well sometimes it snowballs on you.”
Hatcher said it was great to see his team come back.
“We got ourselves in a whole but we showed a lot of character on this team by coming back and scratching and clawing,” he said. “We got to overtime and everyone was excited. I guess that we thought that the game was over but they did a good job. We saw some good things in the second half and we’ll build on that. I thought Brad did a good job of coaching his team and give them credit. Mingo Central deserved to win the game.”
Down 19 in the third quarter, the Tigers began to claw back at the Miners. Chapmanville outscored Mingo Central 16-9 in the third to pull to within 39-29.
In the fourth, the Miners went ahead 44-32 with 6:06 left after a 3-pointer by Julius Hatcher.
Chapmanville then geared up and went to work.
Martin led the charge as he drove down the lane and banked a shot in off the glass to make it 44-36 with 5:33 left.
With 3:21 to go, Martin’s 12-footer off the dribble cut it to 44-38.
Martin then kissed another one in off the window with 2:34 remaining, trimming the Mingo Central lead to only 46-40.
With 2:10 left, Martin hit two technical foul free throws to make it 46-43.
Then with 57.1 ticks left, Martin was hacked and made two more foul shots, slicing the Miners’ lead to just 46-45.
Chapmanville got the ball back and could have held for one shot but the Tigers turned the ball over with 31.5 seconds left after a walking violation.
The Miners then got the ball into Banks’ hands. He was hammered with 12.5 seconds left and stepped to the line and made both free throws, pushing the MC advantage to 48-45.
That was before Martin’s big 3-pointer sent the game to overtime.
It was all Miners in the OT. A Julius Hatcher 3 made it 51-48 and got the ball rolling.
Banks nailed two free throws with 1:31 left and hit two more with 51.4 to go, as Mingo Central led 55-49.
The Tigers attempted to come back one more time but missed a couple of 3-ball attempts.
Banks then put the game away as he hit 3-of-4 charity tosses in the final 20 seconds.
Trey Dalton added seven points for Chapmanville. Kenny Plumley had five, Denver Adkins and Jon Williamson had four each, Joe Tackett had two and Mike Hurst one.
Alex Lee reached double figures in scoring for the Miners with 11 points. Hatcher and Chase Hatfield tallied seven each, while Matt Lester had three and Jason West two off the bench.
“This is a learning process for us. We just have to go back to work and try to find a way to beat them,” Coach Hatcher said of the Panthers.
Mingo Central returns to action on Tuesday night at home against rival Belfry, Ky. tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
“They are our rival,” Napier said of the Pirates. “Like I’ve told our guys the toughest part of our schedule is our first five games. “I’ve got a great group of kids. They work hard and they’ve done everything that I’ve asked. I’m really proud of them and happy for them. They’ve been a great bunch to coach and a great bunch to coach in my first year as a head coach.”
In the preliminary games, the Mingo Central freshmen beat the Chapmanville frosh, 76-75 in overtime. Then in the second game, the Chapmanville JV team won easily over the Miners, 74-37.