NEW MARTINSVILLE - Perhaps the evolution of Magnolia's Spencer Campbell started prior to its game with Wheeling Central last week.
Certainly River coach Mark Romick wished he had waited a couple games.
Campbell scored 25 points, 21 in the first half, as Magnolia rolled by its rival River, 65-43 on Tuesday night. It was the fourth victory in a row for Magnolia (4-3).
"Coach talked to me before the Wheeling Central game about being more of a factor early in games," Campbell said. "He said that would help take some of the pressure of (senior) Zach (Willhoite) and Preston (Boswell). It was something I tried to do."
His conscientious effort paid off, and the proof was in his performance.
After hitting for 12 points in the first half in a huge victory against Central last Friday, Campbell was at it again Tuesday. He had eight points in the first quarter, as Magnolia surged to a 17-0 lead, and he bettered that in the second, when he had 13, on 6 of 6 shooting, as the Blue Eagles screamed to a 41-8 lead.
"He is a very nice player who has made himself better," Romick said. "You know Boswell and Willhoite can score, but with Campbell it kind of gives them a three-headed monster. He can shoot the ball, take you off the dribble. He is hard to guard."
"I felt early on he was holding back," Magnolia coach Dave Tallman said. "He had wide-open shots and he wasn't taking them. I felt like he needed to get involved early. His performance shows that he is starting to do that."
Whether running flawlessly off screens for an open jumper, (he had three 3s) or getting a steal and a layin (he had four steals), Campbell was everywhere.
"I have to thank my teammates," Campbell said. "They find ways to get me the ball in open spots. Without them it's 5-on-1 and you won't win games like that."
River (2-9), a team rebuilding with 15 of Romick's 22 players either freshmen or sophomores, must have felt it was 5-on-1 at times.
Campbell received a lot of help in a lot of areas.
Big man Willhoite had nine points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots. Boswell had eight points, three steals, three rebounds and half-a-dozen assists. Mitch Winters had four points, five rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals. And Chase Miller played his usual steady defense. The bench scored 19 points and all but one player who dressed scored.
"We had trouble competing with their athleticism and their size," Romick said. "Unless you play with a chip on your shoulder in those situations, this is going to happen. A good team is going to sense that and they're going to go for the jugular. That is what happened. We got in a hole early and it was too much to dig from."
River didn't score its first basket until the 6:45 mark of the second quarter. By that point the Blue Eagles had built a 21-2 lead.
Behind the hot shooting of Campbell, Magnolia, No. 10 in the most recent West Virginia Class A poll, never stopped, leading by 33 at the half.
From that point Tallman was able to substitute freely, and he did.
Campbell's emergence is just what Tallman expected.
"The impressive thing about what he did is (River) was playing a defense that was designed to stop him," Tallman said. "He has the ability to do that. He can take people off the ball so well. We probably haven't had that since Ted Talkington."
That puts Campbell, a junior, in rarefied air.
Talkington, who led Magnolia to its last state basketball championship in 2003 and was a 2,000-point scorer, went on to WVU, where he earned playing time as a walk-on, scoring 42 career points and playing in 46 games.
Campbell, who was just starting school when Talkington was starring in New Martinsville, smiled wide at the comparison.
Then he looked at the future.
"We had a rough start but we are coming together," Campbell said. "We are starting to play well. We're getting into a groove."
That's bad news for future opponents.
Parker Coretti and Jarrett Armann had nine points apiece to lead River and Eric Dierkes added eight.