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Boys Basketball: Blue Eagles Escape Red Riders

W.Va. Class AA rivals stage hard-fought battle

January 7, 2012
By JIM ELLIOTT - Staff Writer ( , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

NEW MARTINSVILLE - All of the Weir fans swear they saw some contact.

The Magnolia fans didn't see a thing.

In the end, the officials didn't either, as Magnolia was able to escape with a hairy, 38-37 victory against the Red Riders on Friday night.

Article Photos

Magnolia’s Jayson Keller (left) tries to get around Weir’s Mike Drizake on Friday night.

Photo by Jim Elliott

The play in question was the last one. With 7 seconds remaining, Weir's Josh Groves went the length of the court, took a step in the paint, flipped the ball up as the buzzer sounded and tumbled to the floor. The ball hit next to nothing. No call. Game over.

Weir coach Mike Granato, unsurprisingly, thought he saw a bump in there somewhere.

Magnolia coach Dave Tallman said he was too far away.

Either way, it ended a nearly bloody battle between these Class AA rivals, who always seem to have games that end with folks on the edge of their seats.

For Magnolia (8-1), it was another triumph, despite a forgettable shooting night. The Blue Eagles were 2 of 10 from the free-throw line and 2 of 20 from the 3-point line three days after drilling nine 3s against Oak Glen.

''How do you explain that?'' Tallman asked. ''It's in our gym. It has to be a mental thing.''

For Weir (3-5), it was another night of reading most of the chapters, but still being unable to close the book on a victory.

''If we can finish one of these teams off, it will give our kids a little more confidence,'' Granato said.

''We're inexperienced, but we're really getting better. Our kids are diving on the floor; they're doing the things we expect of them.''

It's hard to say how many people expected the Red Riders to hold an eight-point lead at halftime, but that's just what they had.

''We were happy,'' Granato said.

Tallman kept his guys in the locker room for all but 49 seconds of halftime. Happy, no doubt, was not a word being thrown around in there.

But it was the Weir defense, packed in a zone while simultaneously paying special attention to Magnolia big man Mark Winters, that controlled things early on.

''We couldn't hit the ocean at the beginning,'' Tallman said. ''We tried to pound it in but (Granato) had a good game plan. He was forcing us out a little bit. And we just have to keep working.''

Winters, who finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, had scored six at halftime.

''We knew they'd turn up the heat against us a little bit in the second half,'' Granato said. ''They went man and kinda chested up to us a little bit. They're a pretty physical ballclub.''

Magnolia led for 2 minutes early in the first quarter, then not again until there was 5:24 left in the last quarter (34-32). From there on, Weir outscored the Blue Eagles, 5-4, but never could get that equalizer.

The Riders' best chance came after Granato called timeout with a minute left, looking to draw something up. The Riders worked the ball around for 45 seconds, then ran a pick-and-roll near the free-throw line.

The problem was, Magnolia sophomore Drew Keller stepped in front of the pass and kicked up to a breaking Winters, who was fouled on a layup attempt.

''Realistically speaking, I don't know what we could have done differently,'' Granato said. ''In terms of knowing what they were in and what we were going to run. We got the high pick and roll. We just missed it.''

Nick Blatt added eight points for Magnolia.

Mike Drizake scored 13 points to lead Weir. Dylan Cassiadoro hit a trio of 3-pointers and wound up with nine points.

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