WHEELING - Although playing with two fingers on his shooting hand taped together because of a pre-season injury, Magnolia's 6-foot-6 junior standout Mark Winters didn't let anything affect his usual velvet shooting tough during Saturday night's opening game of the Wheeling Park/Wheeling Hospital Basketball Classic.
Hitting shots from nearly every spot on the floor, Winters drained four 3-point shots among his 13 field goals as he poured in 31 points overall while leading the Blue Eagles past winless, but scrappy Union Local (0-5), 72-47.
Winters' 13 of 21 effort from the field sparked a 29 of 49 overall shooting performance by Magnolia, now 2-0.
''He hurt that finger in a scrimmage but it's getting better every day," Blue Eagles coach Dave Tallman said. ''Mark struggled a little bit behind the arc in our opener against Brooke, but it didn't seem to bother him at all (Saturday)."
Tallman had more than just Winters to be pleased about after Magnolia went out in front 3-0 on Tanner Hanna's trifecta opening the game and never trailed again. ''Big Blue'' built leads of 15-8 after the first quarter, 35-23 at halftime and 51-34 heading in the fourth quarter.
''I real proud of our kids," the veteran Blue Eagles' bench strategist said. ''This is so early in the year and we only had three turnovers until the last few minutes of the game. That's almost unheard of.''
Although Winters was the only Magnolia player to reach double figures, eight others got into the scoring column and were contributors to a standout defensive effort that limited the Jets to just 16 field goals in 44 attempts.
''We're still losing games by large amounts, but I see this team getting better,'' said Union Local coach Vaughn Butler. ''I thought we played pretty well in the first half. Our tempo was good but in the second half the turnovers and unforced errors killed us. The kids played aggressively on both ends. We just need to find a way to get a win.''
The Jets, still awaiting the return of 6-foot senior Tyler McGary who has yet to get the green light to play after sustaining a leg injury during football season, were led last night by Jacob Bailey's 15 points and 10 from Eric Dunfee.
Drew Lattocha's bucket early in the opening quarter pulled the Jets to within 5-4 before Winters' strong post move for a layup off the glass triggered an 8-0 Blue Eagles surge. Nick Blatt scored on a putback followed by Winters' pullup jumper and Jayson Keller's transition goal that extended the Blue Eagles advantage to 13-4.
Hanna and Winters delivered back-to-back triples in the second quarter making it 31-14 and Magnolia led by as many as 18 before settling for the 15-point halftime cushion. Winters swished two more triples and had nine points overall in the third quarter before adding another seven tallies during the final eight minutes.
''Our shot selection was good and I thought, defensively, we did a better job than the first night," Tallman said. ''We were able to create some turnovers and get some steals that led to a lot of easy baskets.''