ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Dave Tallman did the math and what it all added up to Saturday night was an Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class AAA boys' basketball championship for Magnolia High School.
''We were fourth three years ago, third, then second and we became champs (Saturday)," Tallman said after his red hot Blue Eagles knocked off top-seeded St. Clairsville, 60-53, at Ohio University Eastern's Carnes Center, handing the Red Devils just their second loss the season in 20 outings.
''This is a great feeling. St. Clairsville has a heckuva team and we are just really proud of our effort.''
Magnolia’s Jordan Moore goes up in the air for a shot as St. Clairsville’s MacKenzie Koehler (44) defends.
The Blue Eagles, winners of five straight, didn't feel like an underdog coming into the conference title game, according to their veteran coach.
''We've been playing so well that we didn't really talk about underdog too much," Tallman said. ''This is a young team and we really coach confidence. We hit some key shots against their pressure and I felt that if we caught them on a little bit of an off night, we had a chance to win," he added.
Shooting was a struggle throughout the game for Coach Kim Clifford's Red Devils as they just 31 percent (16 of 44) from the floor and their high-scoring sophomore stalwart Dan Monteroso was just 3 of 13 but still finished with 17 points after going 11-for-14 from the foul line.
Magnolia (15-6) did a solid job of double-teaming Monteroso whenever he touched the basketball early in the game. The 6-foot-3 forward didn't connect on his first field goal until the 5:02 mark of the third quarter when he found an opening to the basket and banked an underhand layup off the glass, tying the score 33-33.
''That kid is just a great player," Tallman said. ''How many times did he create something and get to the foul line when there was nothing there because we had a couple of guys in the area? He's just a sophomore and they've got to be happy about that.''
Magnolia's own potential blue-chip sophomore Mark Winters had a big night for himself, sticking several mid-range jumpers from the 12-15 foot area while scoring 17 points and collecting nine rebounds. Senior Matt Sapp also was on target, swishing four 3-pointers on the way to scoring 18 points.
Among the many keys for the Blue Eagles on this night was their ability of their guards, Sapp and junior Jayson Keller, to handle St. Clairsville's constant full-court pressure and get the ball into Winters' hands.
''Keller had that injury in football but he's over it and doing a great job running our offense from the point,'' Tallman said. ''I don't know how many times he and Matt split a triple-team and gave us some easy shots. A lot of Mark's intermediate jump shots came after we beat their pressure and he was wide open. That was the difference in the game.''
Clifford also believed the big shots Winters cashed while moving away from the basket left his team with an uphill battle.
''When we were pressing, I thought we made them take some shots you normally want them to take and they knocked them down. In the fourth quarter, they made three 3s in a row and that's when the game got away from us.''
The lead swung back-and-forth six times in the opening half with Magnolia avoiding some early foul concerns to walk off the court ahead 29-25 after Sapp's backside rebound of a missed shot by Winters.
Tallman talked about the Blue Eagles being able to weather the storm with Keller, Jordan Moore, Nick Blatt and Winters having to take seats for a spell after each was whistled for their second personal fouls.
St. Clairsville quickly tied things up early in the second half on a rare four-point play as DeRosa drained a trifecta while being fouled by the 6-5 Blatt, his third personal. The successful free throw pulled the Red Devils at 29-29 and there would be five more deadlocks before the quarter ended with the teams in a 40-40 tie.
The Red Devils' only lead of the second half came when Riley Carlton buried a 3-pointer from the right wing for a 38-37 lead. Winters hit the front end of a two-shot foul and Campbell, on a nice move inside, put the score at 40-38 before Monteroso's spin move tied the game one more time.
The first 2:22 of the fourth quarter was like a heavyweight championship fight with both teams attempting to land knockout punches. After goals by Keller and Monteroso, Rogalski drilled a 3-pointer, only to be matched seconds later by DeRosa.
Moore then followed with another triple, giving the Blue Eagles the lead to stay at 48-45. An acrobatic tip while flying to the rim by DeRosa made it a one-point game just ahead of Sapp's 3-pointer at the top of the key that put Magnolia up by four at 51-47 with 5:38 showing.
A Blatt free throw and follow-up basket from Winters extended the advantage to 54-47 near the 4-minute mark.
St. Clairsville pulled within four points twice, first at 54-50 following DeRosa's fourth trifecta and then 56-52 on MacKenzie Koehler hoop at the 2:05 mark.
The Red Devils were unable to take advantage of a Blue Eagles turnover and with less than a minute left, Moore netted the front end of his 1-and-1. Monteroso was short on his 3-point attempt with 27 seconds left. After Rogalski cashed only the front end of his double-bonus, Monteroso also went 1 of 2 at the line and Moore added two more free throws to close the scoring with 16 seconds on the clock.
''Congratulations to Magnolia,'' Clifford said. ''It couldn't happen to a better guy that Dave Tallman.''