Eagles Victorious Over Red Devils, 47-44
The Magnolia Blue Eagles used a 14-2 scoring advantage in the third quarter – and withstood a furious fourth-quarter Ravenswood rally – to defeat the defending State Class AA Champions in the Pit at Ravenswood High School March 11, by the score of 47-44.
The Red Devils swished the cords with a bucket from long range to open the scoring in the game, while the Eagles’ floor general, Matt “Slick” Sapp, netted a deuce to knot the game at two.
The Magnolia trio of Mark “Special K” Winters, Andy “Huggy Bear” Huggins and Jared “MVP” Blatt gave the Eagles an early 8-3 lead that forced Ravenswood Head Coach Mick Price to call a timeout.
After the T. O., the Devils would score the next five points to knot the game at eight. But, Blatt drilled a deuce and Sapp stole the basketball and swished another two-point bucket to make it 12-8, Magnolia, late in the first.
After a Red Devil bucket, the Eagles’ Blatt and Josh Yost each tallied a bucket to give the good guys a 16-10 lead after eight minutes of play.
The Devils tallied the first six points of the second period to break even with Magnolia.
However, Yost would answer with a three-point play the old fashion way to retake the lead at 19-16 for Magnolia.
Both teams would then trade buckets. But, after a Devil deuce, Sapp swished the cords from long range to push the score to 24-20 Eagles late in the period. However, the Devils netted the last six points in the frame to take a 26-24 lead going into the locker room.
After the break you could smell the excitement in the air that something exciting was going to happen. Blatt took things into his own hands and scored three straight buckets inside to grab a 30-26 lead.
The defending state champions knocked in a pair of free throws, but Yost matched that with a pair of his own. Huggins and Winters each drilled a bucket inside to force Ravenswood to burn another timeout with 3:20 to go in the third. Yost tallied the only points the rest of the quarter to give the Eagles a 38-28 lead with eight minutes remaining in regulation.
The teams traded buckets to open the fourth period and before you knew it Magnolia was up 42-30 with 5:47 left to play.
However, Ravenswood wasn’t going down easy and cut their deficit to eight on a pair of three point buckets that got the Pit in a uproar. After a Magnolia turnover, the Devils tallied a bucket inside. But, Huggins came to the rescue and delivered two charity tosses to keep the advantage at eight points with a little under three minutes to go.
The Magnolia lead did a Houdini and before you knew it the Devils would trim the Blue Eagle lead down to a bucket with 1:16 left to play.
Magnolia missed a couple 1-1 situations and a double-bonus opportunity. It looked bad for Magnolia. But, Sapp, cool as a cucumber, smiled and knocked down the first of two free throws to give the Blue Eagles a three-point lead with 15 seconds to go in the game.
“Coach Tallman told me to just go up there and knock them down like I do in practice and I just smiled and put one in. It felt great,” said Sapp.
Ravenswood had a chance to send the game into overtime, but superman Jared Blatt soared through the air and swatted away the three-point attempt to secure the victory for the Blue Eagles.
“They beat us last year in the regional and they beat us earlier in the year, and I knew it was going to be a dog fight,” said a jubilant Blatt. “I just didn’t want to put them on the line for three foul shots at the end and timed my jump.
“After the Weir game, we got ourselves back in playing shape and it paid off. We were confident and we did what we needed to do to get the job done and it feels great.”
After the game Yost and Huggins were excited and ready to go to work and finish the season’s mission. “There are no other words I can add,” said Yost. ” It was a great team effort.”
Huggins added, “How about our fans? They came into this place and got as rowdy as the Red Devil fans and they had us 4-1. The fans and cheerleaders kept us motivated and, of course, our coaches had all the faith in us and we weren’t going to let them down.”
After the game Tallman added, “I’m just proud of how hard we played. I told (the Ravenswood Coach) that I have never seen a team with so much guts in my life. But, our guys showed a lot of character and guts, too.”
Blatt paced the Blue Eagles with 16 points, pulled down a game-high eight rebounds, and blocked three shots. Yost followed with 11 markers and was 3-3 from the line. Sapp contributed eight points, while Huggins netted six points and hauled in four boards. He led the team with three steals. Winters tallied four points and blocked four shots, while dishing off a game-high five assists. Traeh Keller, the only other Eagle to score, added a deuce and played outstanding defense.
As a team the Eagles committed eight turnovers, but only one of them came in the second half. The Eagles also out rebounded their hosts 24-14.
The #5 seed Eagles will face the number #4 seed Tug Valley in the state tournament in Charleston tonight at 9 p.m. in the Civic Center. The winner will advance to the semifinals against the winner of #1 seed Wyoming East and the #8 seed Frankfort Friday at 1 p.m. with the winner of that game playing for the championship on Saturday at noon.
Advanced tickets for Magnolia’s state tournament game can be purchased today in the main office at Magnolia High School. Tickets will be available from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Advanced sale prices are $6 for students and $8 for adults; all tickets at the gate will be $8. Game time is 9 p.m.