There comes a time when, despite the odds, the underdog rises up and claims victory. It happened in the WVSSAC 100th Boys' Basketball Tournament in the Class-A opener on March 13 inside the Charleston Civic Center with the Magnolia Blue Eagles, the number two seed, competing against the Wheeling Central Maroon Knights, the number seven seed.
Magnolia came into the tournament as a heavy favorite to meet the number one seed, Tug Valley, in the Class-A finale, while the Knights weren't given a chance to get by the powerful Blue Eagles.
The Eagles already had defeated the Knights three times during the regular season, with the last one a 74-50 thrashing in the Region One, Section I championship only 11 days earlier.
Tom Petty once said, "Even the losers get lucky sometimes." However, it wasn't luck at all. It was more like two totally different teams playing against each other for the fourth time.
The Maroon Knights raced off to a 15-2 lead to open the floodgate, a run keyed by three baskets from beyond the arc by Central's David Park. The banging continued to a 58-35 conclusion with Wheeling Central on top.
The second period wasn't any better for the Blue Eagles. Park added back-to-back triples to open the quarter before the Eagles' Mark Winters connected on his own three-point play. Stephen Rogalski swished a triple shortly afterward and Winters netted a deuce a minute later.
However, Wheeling netted a pair of layups before Winters sank his third basket of the game with three minutes remaining in the opening half.
Central added three more layups and a triple, while Magnolia's Zach Wilhoite netted his only basket of the game at the 2:52 mark to end the Blue Eagle tallies of the half.
MHS Head Coach Dave Tallman's fear about a team spreading the floor and taking advantage of their height advantage came into play more than ever in the third period.
Controlling the ball and patiently waiting for a nice open look, Central held on until Park swished a pair of freebies two minutes into the second half.
After a Knight layup and three made foul shots, the Blue Eagles finally put some points on the scoreboard with a Winters' jumper five minutes into the period.
Then, teammate Preston Boswell netted his first points of the game on a pair of made free throws that forced a Wheeling Central time out.
After the brief rest, Central would cash in on five free throws and one Park tip in. Winters swished the cords from 15 feet out for the final tally of the third stanza, with Wheeling on top 46-18.
Winters made a pair of free throws to open the final period, but Wheeling netted a jumper and a charity toss before Boswell connected from downtown.
The Maroon Knights made their final shot from the floor before ending the game with seven of 10 made charity tosses.
Winters sank a deuce and a triple, while Boswell and Rogalski each swished the cords with a triple. Mike Winters ended the Magnolia nightmare with a deuce.
The Eagles never led and shot 12 of 46 from the floor for 26 percent. In addition, they were only four for 24 from beyond the arc for 16 percent. However, they did make seven of nine free throws for almost 78 percent.
Meanwhile, Wheeling Central netted only five more baskets, 17 of 33, from the floor for 51 percent, and six of eight for 75 percent from beyond the arc. They also converted 18 of 24 free throws for 75 percent.
After the game, Tallman said he was "Shocked. We just couldn't get into any kind of rhythm going." Through it all, he was beside himself in trying to figure out what had just happened to his squad.
"I have no explanation," said Tallman. "We try to hold teams to less than 60 points. We did that. We held them to 58. Where the offense was, I have no idea.
"It's basketball. It happens to the Lakers, it happens to Duke, and it happened to Magnolia today," Tallman concluded.
Mark Winters finished the game with a team-high 20 points and six rebounds, while Rogalski was next with six points and a game-high four steals.
Boswell netted five markers, while Wilhoite and Mike Winters each netted a deuce.
Magnolia ended its season with a 21-5 record, while Wheeling moved on to the semifinals with a 14-12 record. They then fell to Charleston Catholic who was overcome by Tug Valley in the championship game Saturday.
The Blue Eagles will lose starters Mark Winters, Stephen Rogalski, and Kyle Elliott to graduation, as well as Sam Brookover, Garrett Emch, and Mike Winters.
However, starting center Zach Wilhoite and point guard Preston Boswell will return for next season, as will sixth man Spencer Campbell. Other Magnolia players that saw varsity time include Eric Smith, Mitch Winters, Kyle Ritz, and Dylan Shimp.