Mark "Special K" Winters became Magnolia High School's career points leader when his 21 points helped lift the Blue Eagles to a 96-71 victory over Clay-Battelle for the Region I Co-finals March 7 inside an overflowing MHS HammerDome.
The Blue Eagles scored 30 points in the opening quarter, while holding the normally hot shooting Cee-Bees to 13 markers.
After getting the tip, Winters dished off to Zach Wilhoite for a deuce and the game's first bucket. Wilhoite would follow up a MHS miss to give Magnolia a 4-0 lead.
The Cee-Bees connected on a longball, but Blue Eagle freshman sensation Preston Boswell would match that triple with a pair of long range baskets that caused Clay-Battelle to call a quick time out.
After the break, Winters tickled the twine from the top of the key, but the Cee-Bees answered with another threeball. And, after a Blue Eagle turnover, Clay-Battelle would cash in on a jumper.
After charity tosses from Boswell and Winters, and a nice drive and basket by Stephen Rogalski, Kyle Elliott netted a threeball. Winters would finish the first quarter with a putback off a miss, and would hit back-to-back triples to give Magnolia a 30-13 advantage after one period of basketball.
In the period, Boswell, Elliott, and Winters each netted a pair of baskets from beyond the arc, while Winters and Wilhoite each knocked down a pair of two pointers. Besides Rogalski's deuce, he made two steals, while Wilhoite swatted a killer bee shot and pulled down a pair of rebounds.
Rogalski would get the Magnolia faithful on its feet to start the second period with a long three pointer. He would finish the second period with a buzzer-beating triple to put the Blue Eagles on top 46-29 at the break.
But, Rogalski wasn't done. He scored the first points of the second half from just inside the arc. And, after a pair of Clay-Battelle baskets, he would cash in on a runner with a stolen basketball.
After a Clay-Battelle basket, Wilhoite swatted away another Cee-Bee shot and Elliott would connect on a jumper.
Then, and after a Winters-to-Wilhoite deuce, Winters would hijack another CeeBee basketball and drive to the hole for a miss. Magnolia kept it alive off the glass until the Cee-Bees fouled Winters and sent him to the stripe where he sank a pair to put Magnolia in front 54-32.
Wilhoite would give the Eagles a 22-point lead with a pair of freebies that would move the game into the final period of play with Magnolia holding a commanding 69-47 advantage.
Winters scored the first points of the final period off a nifty out-of-bounds pass from Rogalski. Mike Winters and Sam Brookover finished the fourth quarter scoring back-to-back deuces.
In the period, Magnolia made 12-17 free throws, with Boswell leading the way with 7-9 and Rogalski 3-4.
Boswell had a game-high 23 points, including a pair of three pointers, while Mark Winters finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists.
But, Winters' biggest bucket came with 1:39 remaining in the first half. Not only did his basket give the hosts a 41-27 lead, it broke the all-time school scoring record of 2,024 by Ted Talkington.
"Mark has worked so hard," said Tallman of his 6'6" forward and Jesuit recruit. "Wheeling Jesuit Coach Danny Sancomb has a good one, but I still don't think Mark has really hit his potential yet."
Rogalski added 20 points for the Blue Eagles, while Wilhoite dropped in 17 markers and swatted away four Cee-Bee shots.
Elliott sank a pair of threeballs in the first quarter and finished with 11 points.
"This is a real good opportunity for us," said Tallman. "We have to make it a business trip and take care of things as they come. It's a great group of guys to take because they're a great group of kids first of all, and they're great friends with each other."
The win makes Magnolia the second seed in Class-A to face Wheeling Central at the 100th state boys' basketball tournament at 1 p.m. today in the Charleston Civic Center. The winner there moves to the semifinals on Friday at 9:30 a.m.
This will be the fourth meeting this season with the Maroon Knights, with the Eagles having won the first three contests. "Everybody always said 'Magnolia and Tug Valley' and its all you heard all year," said MHS Head Coach Dave Tallman. "Now we are going to go down and try to do just that for the North. We've been down there and lost the first game three years in a row, and we want to change that."
Wheeling Central has won six Class-A state titles since 2002. No public school has won a championship in this class since 2001, when Williamstown defeated Oceana 59-49.
The Eagles' last state championship was in 2003 when they beat Oak Hill, 61-48.