WEIRTON-Madonna matched Magnolia field goal for field goal in Wednesday's clash at the Dubie Dome. Both teams finished with 31 - 22 2s and nine 3s.
The state-ranked Blue Eagles left town, however, with an 89-72 victory by converting 18 of 22 chances from the foul line. The Blue Dons, on the other hand, went to the line just five times, making only one.
"I've always said basketball games are won at the line," Madonna's George Vargo noted. "Magnolia certainly proved that point."
With the victory, Dave Tallman's club moves to 16-4. The Dons fall to 8-13 and will begin Region One, Section One play Saturday at Cameron. The tip is set for 7 p.m.
Magnolia appeared poised to record a blowout early. Hitting six of their first seven shots, the Eagles raced to a 14-2 lead. Senior standout Mark Winters put an exclamation point on the first quarter run by putting one in after a steal on the defensive end.
Madonna's Ross Comis, making just his second start since returning from an injury, wasn't about to let his team get run out of its own gym. The junior guard keyed an 11-0 Blue Don burst to make it 19-18. He made a pair from behind the arc and recorded two on a nifty drive to the basket. Sophomore James Carnes buried a deep ball off a Comis assist.
A hoop by Zach Wilhoite put Magnolia up 21-18 after one. The Eagles went 8 for 13 from the floor during the opening eight minutes.
"We could have died in the first quarter but we came back and played hard," Vargo pointed out. "We took their best shot and made it a game."
Magnolia scored the first seven of the second stanza (Winters getting five) to extend its advantage to 10 at 28-18. The Eagles led 46-32 at halftime. During the initial periods, Tallman's crew was 16 of 27 from the floor (6-for-10 from 3-point) and 7-for-8 from the line. Winters registered 22 points, 17 coming during the second.
The Dons hung tough in the third, outscoring Magnolia 25 to 19. They were red-hot from the floor, hoisting 14 shots and hitting 11. Carnes scored 10 and Tyler Ewusiak six. A Spencer Campbell make at the buzzer allowed the Eagles to take a 65-57 lead into the final quarter.
A 7-0 burst to open the period, two coming on Winters' second slam of the game, allowed Magnolia to regain a comfortable lead and put the game out of reach.
"Without a doubt, that was our best effort of the season," Vargo said. "I'm so proud of our kids, they played an outstanding game. Give Magnolia credit, they were like a small college team out there with Winters getting those two dunks. Plus, they shot the ball so well."
The Eagles shot 51 percent from the floor. Madonna wasn't bad either, making 31 of 62 attempts.
"I thought our kids played well and made good decisions," Tallman noted. "Madonna is a much better team with Comis and they never quit. Of course, Madonna never quits."
Winters finished with 38 points and grabbed eight of his team's 28 rebounds. Wilhoite contributed 19 and Stephen Rogalski 12. He buried his first three tries of the night (two coming from downtown).
"All of our guys are playing with confidence right now and that's something we need as we approach tournament play," Tallman said.
Carnes, who swished five 3-pointers, led Madonna with 21.
Comis had 20 and six assists. Ewusiak added 14 and four assists.