The Magnolia Blue Eagle Boys' Basketball Team, having lost three starters and four of its top six players, appears to be headed into an uphill battle to make another run at an OVAC Class-AAA title and another trip to the state tournament.
However, MHS Head Coach Dave Tallman and Assistant Coach Mark Blair have two state titles, 12 sectional championships, and have been in the OVAC final four every year since the OVAC went to a tournament format. They still believe they may have that special team once more.
Starting with power forward Zach Wilhoite (6'6"), who will give opponents fits with his inside game-his relentless rebounding and shot blocking ability.
He is only as special as the supporting cast around him and he has quite a few to go around. The roster begins with sophomore point guard Preston Boswell and junior forward Spencer Campbell.
In his first season running the show last year, Boswell not only scored in double figures, but made three steals, pulled down six rebounds, and dished out six assists per game.
Campbell, meanwhile, came off the bench to give the Eagles that shot in the arm offensively as well as defensively.
Lost to graduation last year were Kyle Elliot, Stephen Rogalski, Garrett Emch, Sam Brookover and Mark and Mike Winters.
The Blue Eagles this year also have Mitch Winters, (6'3"); Kyle Ritz, (6'2"); Chase Miller, (6'); Eric Smith, (5'8"); Dylan Shimp, (6'3"); and Derrick Blain, (5'7") to complete the varsity team.
Smith saw some varsity action last season, along with Winters and Ritz, while Shimp and Blain paced the freshman team. Tallman is high on Ritz, who will give the Eagles another big man who can rebound.
"As you can see, we can go big or we can go small," Tallman noted. "There are not many teams that have the size we do. Versatility will be one of our strengths."
He went on to explain," Campbell and Boswell can score and will take a lot of the load from Zach on the floor. But, if he gets in foul trouble, we are still going to have a talented group out there."
Mitch Winters has taken his brother's work ethic to another level working on his game 24/7. At 6'3" he isn't as tall his older brothers Mark and Mike, but his tenacity to get better each day has Tallman excited.
Making things a little tough on the Eagles is their schedule. Since dropping down to WVSSAC Class-A schedule, the Eagles have picked up such teams as Buffalo, Madonna, Cameron, Bishop Donahue, Bellaire St. John, Clay-Battelle, and Paden City locally. The Eagles also will take on Renaissance Christian and play in the Riverside Classic near Charleston, as well Monroe Central, River, Tyler Consolidated and Wheeling Central.
"It's important for us to get off to a good start so we can host an OVAC game and an SSAC sectional game," said Tallman. "We are young and a bit more inexperienced than we have been in the past. But, if we can improve each day and continue to shuffle our feet and play good defense, we could be pretty good."
The Eagles open their 2013-14 season at home against Monroe Central Dec. 17 with the junior varsity game set to tip off at 6 p.m.