Mark "Special K" Winters scored a game-high 30 points and cleaned the glass with 14 rebounds to lead Magnolia to its second OVAC Class-3A Title in four years with a 75-53 victory over Buckeye Trail Feb. 16 at Ohio University Eastern.
Both teams struggled early, with the Blue Eagles on top 15-11 at the end of one period. Winters failed to dent the scoreboard in the first quarter, but Stephen Rogalski put up seven markers, while Kyle Elliott - usually a stellar defender - tallied a pair of baskets to put Magnolia on top.
In the second period, Winters scored half of his 30 points, while Elliott and Preston Boswell each cashed in on a bonus bomb to help the Eagles hold a 38-25 advantage at the break. The Blue extended that lead to 57-36 after three periods of play.
Buckeye Trail made an early 9-2 fourth quarter run before Winters followed with three consecutive baskets to key a 10-0 burst that slammed the door on Trail.
"We are always just so happy to be here," said Magnolia Head Coach Dave Tallman. "This is always a community effort and a great event and it feels good to get another victory.
"Buckeye Trail is a very nice team, but I really believe that we are peaking at the right time. We are playing very focused basketball with an awful lot of enthusiasm right now," added Tallman. "I felt like we played a great game, with the exception of a few turnovers early on."
Continuing, Tallman said "But, this is all about our seniors and their leadership, which makes my job very easy. Each of my starters and our kids off the bench played a big part in all this. I can't say enough about kids like Kyle Elliott, Stephen Rogalski, Zach Wilhoite, Preston Boswell, and on down the line. Somebody always seems to pick us up when we need it.
"We had some pretty lofty goals coming into the season and this championship was one of them. Now we have another and I'm sure that everyone knows what that is. This game means the world to us as far as momentum, sectional seeding and even state seeding, if we can get there.
"In the last few years," he added, "we have been fortunate enough to get to the state tournament, but always get the four or five seed. I would love to get back there and maybe move up a little in the seeding. That is why every game matters at this point."
Rogalski followed Winters with 17 points, while Elliott contributed a season-high 13 markers. In addition, Boswell tacked on seven points, including a threeball, while Wilhoite and Spencer Campbell each netted a pair of deuces. Mike Winters failed to score, but played quality minutes when Wilhoite was in foul trouble. He kept shots alive in the paint, while grabbing one himself, and took a hard charge.
In other OVAC title games, Parkersburg South defeated University 50-47 in Class-5A; St. Clairsville sank Steubenville 62-58 in Class-4A; Wheeling Central just got by Steubenville Catholic in Class-2A; and Connoton Valley destroyed Bishop Donahue 65-42 in Class-1A.
Magnolia 72, River 45
If you first don't succeed, try, try again. And Tuesday, Feb. 12, the Blue Eagles did just that. After dropping their first two meetings with the River Pilots, they won 72-45 before a jam-packed HammerDome crowd at MHS in the OVAC Class-3A semifinal basketball championships.
Boosted by a 19-0 fourth-quarter rampage, Head Coach Dave Tallman's squad earned the right to face top-seeded Buckeye Trail in the championship at Ohio University Eastern Feb. 9.
Earlier in the season, River's Brett "The Hitman" Price scored 40 points to help defeat the Blue 79-68 in game one at the MHS HammerDome. Price drained a bucket at the buzzer in the second meeting as well to win a wild one, 54-52 on his home court.
So, what changed Tuesday? "The main difference was playing a man-to-man defense," said Tallman after the game. "We knew we couldn't sit in zone because River shoots the ball pretty well. Kyle Elliott did a great job on Price. We just can't say enough about him."
Price finished the night with 12 points on five of 18 shooting from the field. He made one basket from beyond the arc, while netting 11 in the other two games.
"Price is just a great shooter," said Elliott after the game. "I just wanted to contest every shot and stay in front of him, and I'm just happy that I could help win and get us back to the OVAC Championship again."
Cody Caldwell got the Pilots off to a great start in the first stanza, scoring the team's first two buckets and a bonus bomb, while Price capped off a 7-0 run that gave River a 15-12 lead after one period of play.
Mark Winters swished the Eagles' first points of the game from beyond the arc and Zach Wilhoite would score the team's next five points and finish the quarter with seven markers. Meanwhile, Winters tacked on five tallies to lead the hosts.
From that point, both teams tied the game twice before Magnolia went into the locker room up 27-26 and Winters on the bench in foul trouble the whole quarter. However, Spencer Campbell came off the bench to net a basket from beyond the arc, a deuce, and a charity toss, while Wilhoite was Mr. Steady, netting three baskets and a free throw for Magnolia.
Caldwell drilled a deuce and a nifty bonus bomb, while Jordan Indermuhle sank a pair of perimeter jumpers for the Pilots.
In the third frame, the hosts started to pull away, with Winters and Preston Boswell leading the charge with seven and four points, respectively. The only baskets made by River came from Marconi and Price. Marconi nailed a triple, while "Price was Right" in the quarter, scoring a bonus bomb, two deuces, and a charity toss.
The Pilots' Marconi netted a lay up to pull the Pilots to within five to open the final stanza. It looked like it was going to be a dog fight down then stretch, but the Eagles went on a 19-0 run that included a pair of dunks by Winters and Wilhoite, and two back-to-back triples by Boswell to nail the coffin shut.
"We just couldn't put a shot in," said a dejected River Pilot Head Coach Mark Romick. "When the heat turns up like that, you have to be patient and we didn't do that and the score was the result.
"We got to the fourth quarter and we got impatient," Romick added. "The last two games against them (Magnolia) we maintained that patience the whole game. We shot a lot better the last two times we played. Then tonight, we couldn't hit them."
Price and Caldwell each netted a dozen points, while Matt Marconi tallied 10 markers, including a basket from beyond the arc to pace the Pilot offense. In addition, Jordan Indermuhle tacked on nine points, while Chad Isaly netted a deuce.
Wilhoite paced the Eagles with a game-high 22 points, while Winters contributed 19 points and Boswell added 18 markers. Spencer Campbell came off the bench to add eight points, while Stephen Rogalski netted four points and Elliott a deuce.
The Blue Eagles will have play five games in seven days, the first being the aforementioned OVAC title game. They beat Clay-Battelle on Monday, see story on page 3B. They'll travel to Weirton Madonna on Wednesday, then play a home game against Parkersburg Thursday at 6 p.m. On Friday, it's a varsity-only matchup with Greater Beckley Christian at 7 p.m. in the HammerDome.