NEWTOWN – Last season the Mingo Central Lady Miners advanced to the state tournament for the first time in school history.
The Miners, co-champions of Class AA Region 4, earned the seventh seed and were defeated by the second-seed and eventual Class AA champion Wyoming East in the opening round.
This year the Lady Miners hope to not only get back to Charleston but go deeper than they did last season and win the first-ever state tournament game in school history.
“It was super exciting for me, for the kids to make the tournament,” Mingo Central coach Kim Smith said. “Hopefully we can build on that, and our goal is to always end the season in Charleston, and we accomplished that goal.”
The Lady Miners hope that this season goes off without any interruptions as opposed to last season’s COVID-19 delayed, shortened season.
“It was a difficult season and very stressful with all of the restrictions,” Smith said. “It was short, fast, and furious but we made the best of it.”
Mingo Central returns three starters from last season’s 9-5 squad. The Lady Miners will field a young team this season with no seniors, four juniors, two sophomores and nine freshmen.
“We have some good talent, but we just have to get some experience,” Smith said. “Our goal is always going to be the same and I am really clear about my expectations every day.”
“The way in which we get there is going to be different this year,” Smith said. “We have a young core group of kids but we also have an experience group of kids.”
The two starters lost to graduation, Scarlett Thomason and Jenna Wagoner, were the top two leading scorers and happen to be the only two players to average double figures in scoring last season.
Thomason averaged 17.8 points per game while Wagoner averaged 16.2 points per contest last season.
Returning to the frame for the Lady Miners are a trio of juniors Madisyn Curry, Alyssa Davis and Megan Adkins.
Curry was third on the team in scoring averaging 9.8 points and led the team with 11.2 rebounds per game last season.
“She played well in Charleston and well at the end of the season,” Smith said. “She is a scraper inside and she can shoot outside.”
Davis averaged 4.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per contest. Adkins averaged 4.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists last season for the Lady Miners.
“Megan is a power forward for us inside returning and we also have Alyssa returning,” Smith said.
Freshman Addison Smith will handle the point guard duties this season. Addison, the daughter of coach Smith, played last season as an eighth grader at Belfry (KY) High School where she averaged 2.3 points in 19 games played for the Lady Pirates.
“She will be huge for us and again high school is different than middle school,” Smith said. “She is a good facilitator, is smart and gets the ball where it needs to go.”
“She had that year in Kentucky last year playing high school ball,” Smith said. “She is not coming in completely fresh as a true freshman so she has that experience last year.”
Smith said the fifth starter may be a freshman, but that would be decided on the situation.
“It will be different every game depending on whether we are going with a bigger lineup,” Smith said. “I can play Madisyn Curry at the three and then I can put one of these freshmen at the post or I could go guard.”
Freshman Gianna Akers, Jenna Bradford, Dalaney Grimmett and Bella Hall as well as sophomore Paige Cline are in the running for the fifth starter.
“We have some kids,” Smith said. “It just depends on how they respond to the situation.”
Mingo Central will be challenged this season by a tough schedule. The Lady Miners will have home and home series with reigning Class AA champion Wyoming East, potential Region 3 opponent Summers County, Charleston Catholic and Class AAA Westside.
“We have some solid opponents,” Smith said. “Our schedule is challenging, but I think you have to prepare for the end of February and March if you want to end the season in Charleston on Saturday.”
Joining Smith on the bench will be assistants Jeremy Davis and Mike Smith.
“I feel like I have one of the best staffs in the state,” Smith said. “I was really blessed to have a great coaching staff when I was a player.”
Mike Smith, who has won four state championships at Burch High School, came out of retirement when Kim took over two years ago. Davis coached the middle school ranks in Mingo County before joining Smith’s staff.
“He still hand writes 30 pages of notes even when we have all this Hudl and technology that breaks everything down,” Smith said. “He still wants to do it old school and our kids know all we could know about the other team.”
“Our kids are prepared and they have those scouting reports that prepare them for every game,” Smith said.
Mingo Central, Chapmanville and Liberty (Raleigh) will make one half of the Class AA Region 3 tournament. The trio will be placed in Section 2 while Bluefield, Summers County and Wyoming East make up Section 1.
“That is a tough region,” Smith said. “If you win your section, you are going to play either Summers County or Wyoming East. If you lose your region you are going to play either Summers County or Wyoming East.”
Last season Mingo Central defeated Chapmanville to capture the sectional championship and the right to host the Region III co-finals where they defeated Summers County to advance to the state tournament.
Chapmanville is an improved team this season and Smith knows so they meet in this year’s sectional championship.
“It is going to be a challenge and Chapmanville is young and will be returning everybody,” Smith said. “Kristina (Gore) does a great job with her program. She is trying to run a program there and she is doing a great job.”
Mingo Central opens the 2021-22 season Dec. 2 at Phelps (KY).
“I am excited, and it will be a different season just like every season is,” Smith said. “I am sure there will be highs and lows just like last year but I am excited about the season and it’s going to be a lot of hard work.”