NEW MARTINSVILLE - After falling to Magnolia by 21 points at the Rotary Region One Challenge earlier this season, Ravenswood coach Mick Price knew he was going to have to tweak his strategy a bit for Thursday night's Class AA Region One co-Final.
''The only way I thought we had a chance to really perform was to make their big men come out and play us and get them out of there,'' said Price, a former Sistersville coach. ''I thought we did a good job of that. I thought we did a good job of giving ourselves a shot.''
Still, it wasn't enough.
PHOTO By Rick Thorp
Magnolia’s Stephen Rogalski (5) moves in to defend Ravenswood’s Jake Martin during their game Thursday night.
Magnolia overcame the Red Devils' slow down gameplan, as well having two starters out of the lineup, and prevailed, 37-35, to earn a third straight state tournament berth before a ''white out'' at Magnolia High School.
It was the third straight season the Blue Eagles topped Price's club, which won it all in 2009, in the regional co-final.
''It's not enough,'' a pleased Magnolia coach Dave Tallman said of next week's trip to Charleston. ''We really want to go in there and play well.
''We really want to win that first game. This team is very capable.''
Magnolia has lost its last three state quarterfinal games. Who it will play will be released this morning.
Thursday's victory was a happy moment in what has been a difficult week for Tallman, his family, and the Magnolia basketball community. Tallman's father, Homer, died Sunday at age 81 following a long illness and was laid to rest Wednesday in New Martinsville.
Dave Tallman certainly felt his father's presence Thursday.
''My mom (Joretta) was up there (in the stands) wearing all white like everyone else,'' he said.
Through it all, Dave Tallman maintained a presence at practice all week. He credited assistant coach Mark Blair with shouldering most of the load.
''Our hearts go out to Dave and his family,'' Price said. ''I knew it was a tough game to play for them and that Dave was out there with a heavy heart.''
Ravenswood (13-11) only led once - 1-0 - but never strayed far from the Blue Eagles (20-4).
Magnolia led by seven both at halftime and after three quarters.
The Red Devils drew to within six at 30-24 when Ben Pannell, who paced his team with 16 points, scored on a layup.
With 5:12 remaining, Zach Martin made two free throws to make the score 30-26. But Ravenswood turned the ball over on its next three possessions and couldn't bite into the Blue Eagles lead.
Magnolia was having its share of trouble keeping the ball, too. But with 1:34 left, Hunter Campbell grabbed a rebound under the basket off a miss by Drew Keller and went up and scored to give his team a six-point lead, 32-26. Moments later, his layup sealed the deal.
''Hunter just may be the best-kept secret in the state of West Virginia,'' Dave Tallman said. ''He started out the season with a bad ankle and he's just gotten better and better.''
Campbell has been filling in recently for Zach Willhoite, who turned his ankle the day before a loss at Brooke.
Jayson Keller was also missing from the lineup with an infection on his foot. Dave Tallman is unsure on both players' statuses for next week.
''It was a great game for our team because this just wasn't Mark Winters,'' Dave Tallman said. ''It was everyone ... everyone stepped up.''
As for Winters, he still scored a team-high 15 points, despite being double- and, sometimes, triple-teammed.
''They have a really good team led by a first team all-state player in Mark Winters,'' Price said. ''Gosh, when they needed buckets he came up big.''
Dave Tallman agreed.
''Big-time players step up in big games,'' he said. ''And anytime we needed something he stepped up and did it.''