Gallant Eagle Comeback Falls Short
The Magnolia High School Boys’ Basketball Team’s run at a WV Class-AA title slipped by when they fell 59-54 to the Keyser Golden Tornadoes March 17 in the first round of the West Virginia State Boys Basketball tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.
Magnolia’s top scorer, Mark Winters, and top defensive player, Jayson Keller, got themselves into foul trouble early, opening a huge deficit that put the Blue Eagles into a catch-up mode.
“It takes you out of sequence, but you have to do what you have to do,” said Magnolia Head Coach Dave Tallman. “Some of our early fouls weren’t very smart fouls, but we call those aggressive mistakes. Sometimes we got a little too aggressive, but we would rather do that than go down for not being aggressive.”
Keller got the Blue Eagles on the scoreboard first with a pair of free throws, and Winters followed with a basket in the paint to give the good guys a 4-0 lead to open the game.
After a Keyser jumper, Winters knocked down his own jumper, but the Golden Tornadoes added a fast break layup to pull to within a deuce before a time out.
After the brief break, Nick Blatt swished a pair of freebies to push Magnolia’s advantage back to four points. Keyser would tally only 3-6 from the free throw line, but would get Winters and Keller in foul trouble. After Keller exited the floor, Keyser knocked down a triple to take a 10-8 lead. The Big Blue finished the period with driving layups by Hunter Campbell and Matt Sapp for a 14-12 lead.
The Golden Tornado squad, led by Peyton Hartman, knotted the game at 14 on a finger roll, but Keller knocked in another pair of freebies to push the Eagles’ lead to a deuce. After a time out, Keyser added a jumper, but Winters put-back his own miss for two points. That would be the only points for the Big Blue until Winters and Jordan Moore each tallied a pair of free throws, while Keyser netted four baskets and a pair of charity tosses for a 29-20 halftime lead.
In the first half, Magnolia shot 5-26 from the floor and missed all eight three- pointers, but did make 10-13 charity tosses. Magnolia also had one more rebound than Keyser, 20-19.
Keyser opened up a 15-point lead in the third period before Magnolia fought back to narrow the gap to four points with a flurry of baskets by Sapp, Moore, and Stephen Rogalski, while Keller and Winters fell off a bit because of foul trouble.
Magnolia pulled to within a deuce several times in the fourth period, but Keyser forced several Magnolia turnovers and cashed in on six free throws down the stretch to keep Magnolia at bay. “We gave a great effort, we just couldn’t hit the ocean,” said Tallman in the press room after the game. “We dug ourselves too deep of a hole in the first half, but I’m proud of my guys. We had a great year. We won an OVAC title, won our sectional and regional, and got our great fans from New Martinsville down here.”
Continuing, Tallman noted that “Our leadership from Jordan Moore and Matt Sapp was outstanding all year long and will be greatly missed. I really feel bad for them.”
Moore paced the Blue Eagles with 16 points, including a basket from beyond the arch, while Winters contributed 13 points and pulled down a dozen boards for a double-double. Sapp ended his high school career with 10 points, including one from long range, and he dealt out a game-high five assists.
Keller and Blatt each netted 4-4 from the charity line, while Rogalski and Campbell tallied five and four points, respectively.
For the game, Magnolia out-rebounded Keyser 39-31 and had one more assist, but sent the Tornadoes to the charity line for 32 chances, while the Eagles stepped to the line 24 times, cashing in on 17 of them.
Magnolia ended the season 19-7, while Keyser improved to 21-4.
Oak Hill would win the Class-AA title over Scott, while Weirton Madonna beat Morgantown Trinity for the Class-A title. Wheeling Park would lose the Class-AAA title to George Washington.