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Mingo Central’s Ziah Rhodes scored 20 points in Saturday’s win over East Fairmont.

LOGAN — A season ago, a fight among teammates derailed an otherwise promising season for Mingo Central.

This year, the Miners are fighting together, to put their program back on the map.

Central took another step toward that on Saturday, using a late scoring flurry with some guts and guile to outlast East Fairmont 61-56 at the Wildcat Classic Hoops Showcase at Logan.

The win moved the Miners to 5-2, a big step forward from last year’s 7-17 campaign, one which Mingo Central is striving to leave in the past.

In the team’s second game of the year, junior stars Ziah Rhodes and Katie Ball got into an altercation on the floor, one that eventually led to their suspensions and subsequent transfers to Belfry High School in Kentucky. It also led to coach Brandon Ball stepping down after three games, yielding to Nathaniel Siggers, who remains on the coaching staff now.

Ball and Rhodes were expected to carry the load a year ago, thrusting several youngsters into the fray in a rugged Cardinal Conference and Class AA Region 4.

But it’s a new year and a new Mingo, and under the guidance of former Burch player Kim Davis-Smith, the Miners are making strides. Davis-Smith was on Burch’s state-championship team in 1990, the only girls basketball state title won by a school in Mingo County.

In this her first year as a head coach, she’s striving to bring some of that championship mentality to the Miners.

“We have some of those kids back, but me coming in as a new coach, it’s definitely been a rebuilding process,” Davis-Smith said. “We are starting over, with everything. We have new uniforms, we’ve upgraded our locker room — we’ve really tried to invest in our kids, our program and our future.”

After a year away, Rhodes has returned and is flourishing in her senior season. Rhodes led all scorers with 20 points on Saturday and averaged just over that entering the game. The athletic combo guard has also bought into Davis-Smith’s philosophies and heightened leadership responsibilities.

“I think she’s embraced it well and she’s probably never had a coach like me,” Davis-Smith said. “I just hold them to a different level of accountability in practice, in life in general and how we present ourselves in public and at school. She’s done well with it and they all have and she is a phenomenal athlete.”

Scarlett Thomason was one of those players thrust into the spotlight a year ago and was the team’s lone double-digit scorer, averaging 14.3 points.

Now a junior, Thomason is complementing Rhodes in the backcourt and scored 18 points on Saturday, including a pivotal third-quarter stretch of eight straight to put the Miners ahead.

Madisyn Curry scored seven points off the bench with Zoe Evans and Maliyah Martin adding six points apiece. Jena Wagoner, a transfer from Tug Valley, came up with four foul shots down the stretch to help keep the Bees at arm’s length.

Kierra Bartholow hit six 3s to lead East Fairmont with 18 points. Somer Stover added 14 points and Avery Pack 11. The Bees (3-5) held a 34-23 advantage in rebounding.

With only losses against Winfield and North Laurel, Kentucky on the ledger, the Miners are off to a 3-1 start in the Cardinal Conference and should find themselves in the thick of a competitive Region 4 Section 2 that also features Chapmanville, Logan and Lincoln County among others.

n The event featured a personal milestone for Summers County guard Taylor Isaac.

The Class A No. 4 Bobcats picked up a 61-47 win over Tug Valley in the game prior to the Mingo Central-East Fairmont tilt, with Isaac scoring 21 points to go over 1,000 for her career. Fellow junior Gavin Pivont led the team with 22 points.

Contact Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948 or ryan.pritt@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @RPritt.