Eagles Hand Knights First Loss
After a pair of disappointing early losses, the Magnolia Blue Eagles’ bid to win back-to-back state Class A titles started to look like a possibility as they handed the No. 1 Class A, and previously undefeated, Wheeling Central a 65-61 defeat inside an overflowing MHS HammerDome in the annual New Martinsville Rotary Challenge.
The Eagles’ Derrick Blain nailed three of his game-high five 3-pointers in the opening period, while teammate Preston Boswell netted eight points, including one from downtown to help pace the Eagles to a 21-13 advantage after one period of play.
The pace slowed down just a bit in the next period, but the Blue Eagles extended its lead to to as much as 13 points with two more Blain 3-pointers, while Kyle Ritz chipped in with a pair of baskets to keep Magnolia on top 36-27 at the break.
Magnolia held its largest lead of the night in the third period, at 46-32, but the Knights outscored the Eagles 14-10 in the period, with Boswell sinking half of the teams points to close the gap.
The final period got interesting as the Knights went on a 21-6 run with 3:28 to go that would give them its first lead of the game since 11-8 early in the first period.
Wheeling Central put the hammer-down and went up by four at 59-55 with about two minutes remaining. It looked like the jam-packed crowd was going to witness another nail-biter like the one these two staged during the state championship last season.
Boswell tied the score with four consecutive free throws, before the Knights knocked down a deuce to re-claim the lead. However, a few moments later, Boswell answered with two more free throws to give Magnolia a one point lead with 16.9 seconds remaining.
The Maroon Knights missed a three-pointer and Boswell was quickly fouled after grabbing the miss.
He would then sink the back end on a two-shot bonus foul shot to give the home team a two-point cushion. On the end-bounds pass, the Knights fouled the Eagles’ Zach Haught. He would cash in on the first attempt to give the Eagles a three point lead, but missed the second. However, the scrappy Blue Eagle Tyler Anderson, was Johnny on the spot, as he grabbed the loose ball and once again was quickly fouled.
Anderson missed the first, but secured the win by sinking the second for the final points of the game. The Knights converted 15-of-16 free throws down the stretch, where the Eagles were only 10-19.
“This was just a great high school basketball game,” said a jubilant MHS Head Coach Dave Tallman. “It’s still early in the season, and it’s round two. They won round one and there is a good chance there could be a round three and maybe a round four down the road.
“It’s was a nice win for us. It’s also a great win for the community, with a lot of people lending a hand and helping putting the Rotary Challenge together… And it’s big for the younger kids sitting in the stands watching and wanting to be a Magnolia ball-player.”
Tallman went on to add, “We missed some crucial free throws late or we would have actually had a nice advantage, but give Wheeling Central a lot of credit, they played with great intensity. The Knights’ Chase Harler is a great player, and we knew when he got in
the corner late, he was going to hit a three.
“But, Preston (Boswell) is definitely our leader and it’s real simple, get the ball into his hands with the game on the line, and he once again stepped up. He is such a team player, when he got his 2,000 point and we stopped the game he told me that he didn’t care
about that, he just wanted to win. That’s the kind of kid he is.”
Boswell led all scorers with 28 points, including a trio of three pointers, while Blain netted all 15 of his points from beyond the arc. Ritz added a dozen, while Mitch Winters and Anderson. Each contributed four points. Tyler Williamson posted two points, while
Haught sank a free throw.
Central’s Harler paced the visitors with 20 points, including three triples and 7-8 charity tosses.