Blue Eagles’ Claim Crown
The Magnolia Blue Eagle coaches Meredith Pilant and Mark Winters have stressed defense wins championships, and on Feb. 23 inside the MHS HammerDome in the Region I, Section II championship, it worked just like they have been telling the girls. The Lady Eagles limited the running Rebels to five points in both the third and fourth periods, while outscoring the Rebels, 33-10, to win the sectional championship, 58-32.
“We wanted them to pressure the ball,” Meredith Pilant said. “We knew that would isolate Kyndra and Mady underneath. And that’s where we dominate,” said Magnolia Head Coach Meredith Pilant. “So we knew if we could pull them out and make them guard us, we could dominate in the paint. That was kind of the plan there.”
It didn’t go as planned from the start the game, as the Lady Rebels took a 15-13 lead after one period of play.
However, the Eagles lone senior, Logan Riggs, started the game with a three-ball, but a shooting foul by Magnolia gave Ritchie a points. But Magnolia’s freshman Mady Winters scored a deuce on a offensive rebound put-back to give the hosts a 5-1 lead.
The Rebels top scorer, Abby Haught, would score a triple, a two-pointer and a free throw before another Winters’ offensive rebound putback, and a Kyndra Pilant deuce gave the hosts the lead at 9-8 with a little over two minutes remaining in the opening period.
Cassie Tallman scored four straight points before Winters matched her with four of her own to grab the lead back at 13-12, but Madelyne Curfman banked in a three-ball at the buzzer to give the visitors a 15-13 advantage heading into the second period.
The Rebels scored the first points in the second, but Riggs quickly matched it with a deuce. Winters would pick up her second personal and sat a good portion of the second period. But, just as quick, Pilant picked up an offensive foul for her second foul too, and the Blue Eagles’ chances to get the lead back quickly faded.
Riggs tied it up at 17-17, but Haught scored four quick points. The Eagles put Pilant back in to finish the half, and she produced without picking up her third period, scoring two straight baskets while giving Winters more added rest.
After a quick Ritchie timeout, Riggs kissed one off the glass, but the Rebels’ Ashley Davis lit one up from long range. However, the Lady Rebels left freshman Lenica Grimm alone in the corner, and she drained a two-pointer to give the hosts the lead they would never loose.
The entire second half belonged to Magnolia, as it outscored, out-hustled, and out-scrapped Ritchie to pocket its first sectional title since 2007, and the its first title on home-turf.
Winters started the second half with her third offensive rebound putback, while junior eagle-eye Kennedy Parsons swished her a basket from beyond the arch, that got the huge Magnolia Maniacs on their feet with approval.
With the lead, the Blue Eagles held the ball to force Ritchie to come out that gave the Eagles’ Pilant and Winters good looks and Riggs would make them pay with a nice open lay-in and a Sierra Walker easy deuce to help Magnolia outscore Ritchie, 11-5, in the third period for a 36-29 lead with eight minutes remaining in regulation.
“We went in at halftime and told them, ‘Keep playing defense,'” Magnolia Head Coach Meredith Pilant said. “We pride ourselves on not making the steals, not making the blocks, just playing good solid defense. Stay in front of them.
“We did that. Ritchie County got frustrated. They weren’t able to do a lot in the second half, they weren’t going for the foul, they weren’t going for the steal, they were going for the good, solid defensive play. And the defense led to the offensive ability.”
The Blue Eagles scored nine straight points to start the final chapter, starting with a Walker two and ending with a Pilant coast-to-coast lay-up. However, Winters picked up her fourth foul with 43:39 left, and quickly Tallman drilled a bonus bomb.
Walker scored another deuce, while Pilant scored a conventional three-point play, that again got the Magnolia Maniacs on their feet. Winter then re-entered to finish the game, and just as quick sky-hooked one in.
After a pair of Tallman misses at the charity stripe, Pilant landed a pair of two-pointers before Ritchie scored its second basket and final bucket of the game.
Grimm scored the back-end of a two shot foul, and Pilant rejected a Ritchie shot to end the game, with Magnolia on top, 58-32.
“We have worked for this all year,” Pilant said. “Our girls knew coming in they were underrated, that they were doubted. It has been in their mind for a long time. We kept telling them they have the heart, they have the ability, they put the work in. So this was a big step for them because I don’t think anybody saw them on the map at the beginning of the season.”
Pilant led all-scorers with 21 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double, while stuffing the stat sheet with four assists and three blocked shots. Winters also had a double-double, tallied 14 points and grabbing 20 rebounds, while Riggs chipped in with 11 points, including a triple, and passed out four assists.
In addition, Walker recorded five points, while Parsons and Grimm each scored three points. Parsons paced the Eagles with two steals.
Haught paced the Lady Rebels with 16 points, while Tallman followed with seven markers.
The win gave Magnolia another home game Wednesday night at 7 p.m. against the Cameron Dragons ,who lost to Wheeling Central in the Region I, Section I championship, while Central will host Ritchie on Wednesday, also at 7 p.m.
Lady Eagles Survive And Advance, 52-51
With 57.6 seconds remaining in the game and Magnolia on top 50-49, the Eagles’ lone senior, Logan Riggs, pulled down a rebound and went coast-to-coast to put the Eagles on top by three. However, the Devils quickly matched it with one of their own with 14.4 seconds remaining, and called a timeout at midcourt.
St. Marys then moved it around to the baseline and took a good shot, but the ball rimmed off and the Eagles won, 52-51, in dramatic fashion on Feb. 21 in the WVSSAC Region I, Section II sectional semi-final inside the MHS Gymnasium.
Magnolia looked like they were going to blowout St Marys to start the game, scoring the first seven points before the Lady Devils sank their first points of the game with a three-pointer by Addie Furr at the halfway point of the opening period. However, that started a 7-0 run to knot the game at 7-7.
Kyndra Pilant scored her second two-pointer of the period to retain the lead, but Furr tallied a deuce to give the visitors their first lead at 11-9. However, the Eagles’ Mady Winters ,who started the Eagles 7-0 run, ended the period with a deuce to knot the game at 11-11.
Winters opened the second period with a deuce off an assist from Pilant, who later made one of two free throws to give Magnolia a three-point advantage. However, the Devils’ Lara Fetty scored a conventional three-point play to knot things up once more.
Winters and Riggs each sank a goal in between a Devil deuce, but St Marys would end the first half with a 10-0 run to grab a 28-20 lead at the break.
Pilant scored the first points in the second half with a rebound put-back two minutes in, but the Devils quickly answered. Riggs and Sierra Walker scored a deuce each and a trey, respectively, before St Marys netted a deuce.
Walker went deep once more to give the host 30 points, pulling Magnolia to within a bucket at 32-30. After another Devil deuce and a Lenica Grimm two-pointer, St Marys would go on a 8-5 run to end three periods of play, with the Devils holding onto a 42-37 lead with eight minutes remaining in regulation.
Riggs dialed long-distance to open the fourth, but St Marys wanted to put the Eagles away and went on a 5-0 run before Riggs netted a deuce inside six minutes to play.
Both St Marys and Magnolia missed a pair of free throws before Pilant and Winters scored back-to-back deuces that forced Devils Head Coach Howard Meeks to burn a timeout with the Eagles closing the gap to 47-46, inside the three minute mark.
After the break, Walker connected just inside the arch to give the home team their first lead since early in the first quarter at 48-47 with 1:25 remaining.
With the Magnolia student body and the Blue Eagle cheerleaders going wild, Pilant gave them some more to cheer about with another deuce, giving Magnolia a three-point lead.
But the Lady Devils would not go away and closed the gap to 50-49 with 57.6 remaining in the game before Riggs scored the game-winner.
Riggs led the Eagles with 16 points, including two baskets from beyond the arc, while making two steals. Winters tallied 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Pilant added a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds, while compiling five steals and blocking five shots.
In addition, Walker posted eight markers that included two tree-balls, while Grimm sank a pair of two-pointers.
Wright Kylie paced the Blue Devils with 17 markers, while Farr finished with 10 points for all the Blue Devils double-digit scorers.