By TRACY WATSON
For The Intelligencer
NEW MARTINSVILLE - After taking over the Magnolia girls' basketball program in the middle of last season, coach Mark Blair has been doing his best to blend a young team together and make the Blue Eagles better.
While Big Blue struggled in a season-opening loss at Monroe Central, signs of things turning around could be seen in a pair of victories this week.
Senior Mallory Chapman and junior Katie Blatt each recorded double-doubles, combining for 40 points and 20 rebounds, while sophomore Grace Berisford added 15 points as Magnolia broke a 10-10 first quarter deadlock and cruised to a convincing 70-37 victory agianst the Red Riders at Magnolia High School.
"We are still a very young team," Blair admitted. "But we have goals of getting better every game and having fun, and while it is still early things are coming around.
"Right now we are playing nine girls, but just one senior, two freshmen, two sophomores and a group of juniors, so it will continue to be a learning process, but hopefully by tournament time these girls will be ready to make some noise."
Early on the girl making noise was Weir's (0-5) Alyssa Shingle, who scored all 10 of her team's first quarter points.
However, things quickly turned around in the second frame as Magnolia got hot and went on a 27-10 run to take command. Chapman, who finished with 23 points and 10 boards, had seven and three in the quarter while Blatt, who ended with 17 and 10, scored six and added three rebounds in the second.
The onslaught only continued in the second half as Magnolia kept scoring and Weir continued turning the ball over. It was 53-29 after three quarters, with the final score representing the biggest lead of the night.
"I think the biggest key (Thursday) was the three double-figure scorers," Blair added. "And Audrey Gibb and Kelsi Chapman did an outstanding job shutting Shingle down over the final three quarters.
"One of the biggest things these girls have to learn is to be able to run some clock when we have the lead, we did a little bit of that, but have to get better. We told the girls that there will be nine of them contribute, and they all have to know their roles.
"The other big thing for us is getting Mallory (Chapman) the ball inside, where she is very dangerous. Another key is working on our outside shooting and just having girls stepping up at the right time. I am very proud of the hard work everyone is putting in and I know we will only continue to get better, and take things one day at a time."
Raegan Stead paced Weir with 11 points while Shingle, who did not score after the first period, finished with 10.
Magnolia grabbed a huge 39-21 edge off the glass while the Red Riders equaled their rebounding output with 21 turnovers to just seven for Big Blue.
"They beat us in every phase of the game," a dejected Bill Smith said afterwards. "Turnovers have plagued us so far and we have to learn how to take care of the basketball better.
"Alyssa Shingle got going for us early, but they went to a man defense with good help and shut her down. They just made good adjustments and forced her to take bad shots the rest of the game."
After beating Wheeling Central on Tuesday, the Blue Eagles will look for a 3-0 week when they travel to Beallsville to take on the Blue Devils Saturday night.