NEW MARTINSVILLE - If Magnolia is going to make any kind of run in Charleston, the Blue Eagles are more than likely going to do it behind all-starter Mark Winters.
In Friday's West Virginia Class AA Region One, Section One final against rival Weir, Winters showed he was ready for postseason play with the best game in his three years in Blue and Gold.
The junior scored a career-high 37 points, almost with ease, as Magnolia moved on to the Region One co-Final with a 71-51 victory against Weir at Magnolia High School.
Magnolia’s Hunter Campbell drives Friday night.
Photo by Josh Strope
''Weir is big and they move real well,'' Winters said. ''I was able to move them out with a shot fake and then took it to the hole. Everything seemed to be working.
''We want to bring the enthusiasm (to the tournament). We were in a little bit of a slump there and we have tried to be more enthusiastic in practice and it carried over.''
After Magnolia (19-4) started the game with a 9-0 run, Weir (8-15) climbed back in to finally tie it at 21-21 midway through the second quarter on a Harley Mills basket inside.
The Blue Eagles owned the rest of the quarter, closing it on a 16-6 run.
Winters, who also added 16 rebounds, came out of the locker room and tried to put an early nail in the Red Riders' coffin with 10 straight points, including back-to-back 3-pointers to put Magnolia in front 17 at 47-30.
''(Adding the 3-pointer) has helped me a lot,'' Winters said. ''If I start hitting those 3s and get going, I can just go right inside and score easier that way.''
Added Magnolia coach Dave Tallman: ''Mark Winters has worked his tail off. He is a guy, that despite being a first team all-stater as a sophomore, has not rested on that at all. His attitude is great. It's been a long time coming to get the real recognition he deserves.''
Magnolia dominated the third quarter, entering the final 8 minutes in front 21, leaving the only real question of if Winters, who had 30 entering the quarter, would be able to top his previous high of 34.
He got that with a free throw late in the game to send the Blue Eagles into next Thursday's game against Ravenswood with a chance to make a third straight trip to Charleston for the state tournament.
''We really want to take this group to Charleston,'' Tallman said. ''Ravenswood can be a Jekyll and Hyde. They came in here and couldn't hit the ocean (a 63-42 Magnolia victory Jan. 28) and then put up 90 on a good Ripley team. We just have to be ready to go. Mick (Price) probably has a magic number where he wants to keep it and we have a magic number of where we want to be.''
Stephen Rogalski added 14 points for the Blue Eagles. Mills paced the Red Riders with 18 points.
Weir will face Point Pleasant, the Section Two champion.
''We had good effort and the kids played hard,'' Weir coach Mike Granato said. ''Magnolia was the better team. We tried to throw some different defenses at them, tried to trap them, just to maybe get some easy baskets. They are big, they are fast, they are a good ballclub and worthy of all their accolades and their ranking. We had some missed opportunities. We tied it and then they went on another spurt.
''I hate to use a golf analogy, but this game was a mulligan. We hit a ball in the woods and now we get a second shot. Oak Hill won a state championship with a loss, Madonna last year. You just don't know what can happen on any given night and when a team can get hot.''