Mountain Lions Roar Past Eagles
Facing Tucker County in the Class A girls basketball tournament, the Magnolia Blue Eagles raced out to a 9-3 lead March 8, starting with a jumper from the corner and a deuce by Kyndra Pilant.
Pilant added a free throw and another two-pointer, while Mady Winters contributed a pair of free throw tosses, in between a Tucker County conventional three-point play.
The Tucker County Mountain Lions finished the first quarter on an 8-0 run to take a lead and never looked back in a 66-35 victory. The match-up was the opening game of the Class A tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.
“We were excited to get down here, and we are such a young squad,” Magnolia Head Coach Meredith Pilant said. “The experience to get down here was great and their goal all year.
“The game didn’t go as we hoped,” Pilant said. “We had 33 turnovers compared to their eight and that is hard to win a ballgame… Nerves may have played a part. I was proud of the second half, but there was already that deficit and it was hard to come back from there.”
Magnolia was held to six points in the second quarter on baskets by Winters and Riggs, along with a pair of Pilant free throws. The Lady Mountain Lions tallied 19 markers, with 10 of the points coming from Sydney Nestor.
With Tucker County on top, 30-15, at the break, the Eagles needed to get off to a good start in the second half, but it didn’t go as planned. Tucker County outscored the Eagles, 38-19, with Winters getting loose from a blanket of Mountain Lion defenders for a pair of two-pointers, and Pilant right before a media time-out.
After the break, the Eagles scored three free throws to get to within 14 points, but pushed it back to 18 points before Pilant added a three-point play to end the third period, down 44-29.
“They were a very physical team, and we got pushed around a little bit. I think (Tucker’s) experience of being down here helped them, too,” Pilant said. “We practiced on some similar rims, and the girls knew it was tough and would be an issue. Our inside game wasn’t there because of the turnovers, and we couldn’t get the ball in and none of the shots were just there.”
Winters drilled a deuce to open the fourth, followed by a Riggs charity toss to pull to within 12 points. However, it would be as close as the Lady Eagles would get.
The Mountain Lions would outscore Blue Eagles, 12-2, the rest of the way, moving on to play Wheeling Central in the semi-final match early Friday afternoon. Wheeling Central defeated the Mountain Lions and went on to be victorious in the rest of the state tournament, becoming eventual state champions.
Pilant is confident the Lady Eagles’ state tournament experience will lead to bigger and better things for the Blue Eagles in the future. All ladies return except for senior Logan Riggs, who is happy she was able to help build the foundation for the program.
“I connected with my team, and we made things happen this year,” Riggs said. “We didn’t really believe at first; being the foundation and pressure on my shoulders, I played well in the sectional and regional, but stuff doesn’t fall your way all the time.
“The pressure kinda got to me (Thursday) but I love my team and it was great being down here.”
Pilant secured a double-double with 14 points and 22 rebounds, while adding three blocks, three assists and one steal in her first state tournament. Winters paced the Big Blue with 16 points, including all four of her free throws; she secured seven rebounds and blocking one shot.
Riggs was the only other Blue Eagle to score, added five markers. Kennedy Parsons didn’t score, but she rejected one shot, pulled down three boards and made two assists. Sierra Walker also didn’t score but played great defense and grabbed three rebounds.
Tucker County turned those 33 turnovers into 37 points. The Mountain Lions also held a 12-0 advantage in fast-break points and their bench outscored the Blue Eagles, 22-0. They also recorded 25 steals to one for Magnolia.
Nestor paced 10 Mountain Lion scorers with 22 points, while Dominique Meadows and McKinley Murphy followed with nine and eight points, respectively.
“This was a wonderful experience and we know what we have coming in the future and now we have to build on it,” Meredith Pilant said. “They need to keep their heads up. They worked hard and the credit all goes to them for getting here.”