Blue Eagles Sink Pilots With A Storm Of Blocks
BY CLAY MORRIS
For The Wetzel Chronicle
The Blue Eagles of Magnolia beat the River Pilots 50-36 in a tight defensive game that was filled with emotion on both sides Jan. 2 at the HammerDome.
The first quarter play was as physical as they come. These two rival teams went back and forth in the opening quarter only to be deadlocked when the final seconds ticked away. Although Andy Huggins played a smooth inside game, scoring six of Magnolia’s 10 first quarter points, the Pilots kept it close on foul shots. River shot its first one-and-one with 15 seconds left in the first quarter.
Magnolia’s Josh Yost scored six of the Eagle’s first eight points to open the second quarter. Not to be outdone, however, River’s Dylan Potts scored five straight points off of a three-pointer, and a mid-range jumper from the left side to put the pilots up.
Potts’ scoring run forced Magnolia Head Coach Dave Tallman to call a much needed time out. When play resumed, Magnolia’s Treah Keller splashed in a threeball to regain the lead for the Eagles. The two physical teams headed into the locker room with a score of 25-24, advantage Blue Eagles.
River came out of the gate on fire to start the second half and took a 28-25 lead. Then, Tallman called on his swat team to take over. Freshman Mark Winters brought a storm of blocks with him in the second half that ended up sinking the Pilots in the long run.
The flurry of blocks sent the crowd into a frenzy which sparked the Eagles. Magnolia’s ‘I-can-shoot-from-your-lap’ Matt Sapp, who was quiet for most of the night, hit his first basket from beyond the arc in the third quarter. The shot was a huge one and put the Blue Eagles back on top 30-29. The Eagles’ full court pressure in the third quarter proved to be too much for the Pilots, who found themselves in the hole, 36-32, after three periods of non-stop action.
The Big Blue broke the fourth quarter wide open with a much earned 11 point lead. Senior standout Jared Blatt scored four straight big points to boost his team’s lead in the opening of the final quarter. Huggins, the second leader of the swat team, came up with a couple big blocks to boost the fourth quarter run. With just under two-and-a-half minutes left, Blatt put the final dagger in the score with a hard fought three points the old fashioned way.
The swat team ended up with 12 overall beatdowns, with Winters leading the way with five blocks, while Huggins finished with three of his own. Sapp, Yost, Blatt, and Jordan Moore also attended the block party with one swat apiece.
Huggins paced the Big Blue with a game-high 16 points, with 14 markers coming in the first half. Blatt ended the party with all of his 14 points and eight boards coming down the stretch in the second half.
Other key contributors for Magnolia included Winters with eight points and nine rebounds, while Yost netted three baskets. Both Keller and Sapp netted a basket from beyond the arc.
For the Pilots, Dylan Potts and Tucker Brown tallied 13 and 11 points, respectively, while Sam Ramsier, Tyler Jeffers, and Jordan Potts each contributing four points.
In the junior varsity tilt, the Blue Eagles held off a determined Pilot squad by a 43-35 tally. Bentley Knight was high scorer for the Blue Eagles with a dozen markers.
The Pilots will travel to Shadyside Jan. 5 for a junior varsity match-up at 6 p.m. and will host Shenandoah Jan. 8, also at 6 p.m.
The Eagles’ junior varsity and varsity teams will try to keep their unbeaten season unblemished when they host the undefeated Class AAA John Marshall Monarchs Jan. 6 with a 6 p.m. jayvee start. The Eagles will play their first away game Jan. 8 against regional rival Weir, also at 6 p.m.