Blue Eagles Fall Short In State Tournament
The Magnolia Blue Eagles went 0-14 from beyond the arc and Tug Valley scored 21 points off 20 Magnolia turnovers to send the Eagles home with their worst loss of the season, 69-51, in the West Virginia Class AA State Boys’ Basketball Tournament March 17 at the Charleston Civic Center.
“I think the difference was from their experience in the state tournament last year,” said Magnolia Head Coach Dave Tallman. “We turned the ball over too many times and that’s just not our team. We tried to look up the floor and we just didn’t do it. We panicked. We just didn’t move to open areas and things we worked on in practice just didn’t pan out.”
Magnolia felt if they could jump out to a good start they would be alright. They did just that in the opening period. Josh Yost tallied the first three points and teammate Andy Huggins tipped in a missed shot to give the Eagles a 5-0 lead in the first two minutes of the game.
However, the Tug Valley Panthers returned a jumper and scored an easy bucket on a Magnolia turnover to narrow the gap to 5-4. Magnolia called a time out to talk it over. After a pair of missed Panther free throws, Jared Blatt showed them how to deliver the goods with a pair of freebies from the charity stripe to push the Eagles score to 7-4.
Tug Valley then converted a turnover into an easy bucket and the Eagles’ Mark Winters knocked in a teammate’s miss. After another Tug jumper, Matt Sapp made 1-2 free throws and Winters delivered a jumper to give Magnolia a 12-8 advantage. However, the opponents trimmed the deficit with a three pointer at the buzzer to narrow the gap to 12-11 after one period of play.
Winters scored a free throw and a deuce to start the second frame. After a jumper by Tug Valley, Blatt gave the Eagles their last lead of the game with a layup for a 17-13 lead.
The Panthers then turned up the defensive pressure with its swarming press and the Eagles couldn’t handle it. Tug went from being down to taking a nine-point lead at intermission – a lead that never dipped below six for the remainder of the game.
At the break, the Magnolia student body, headed by Justin Fox, Padyn Ludewig, and Landon Herrick, tallied 14 baskets to beat their Panther counterparts in the hot-shot competition in conjunction with RAZE.
Magnolia has been a strong inside team all season with tall core, led by Blatt, Huggins, Winters and Yost. But, none of that seemed to mater, as the Panthers used their up-tempo style to score 34 points in the paint – most of them coming off turnovers.
Winters led Magnolia with 19 points, while Blatt finished his outstanding high school career with a double-double – 14 points and 13 rebounds to pace the Eagles’ scoring. Yost scored seven points, while Huggins netted six points and 12 rebounds. Sapp netted three markers, while Justin Wade scored the final bucket of the game on a turn-around jumper in the paint.
“I just want to thank our fans and especially the student body that have followed us and cheered us on throughout the season,” added Tallman. “I feel bad for our seniors. They have paved the way all season and have given us everything you could ask for as a coach.”