MCMECHEN - Bishop Donahue coach Tom Wise tried everything to stop Magnolia's Preston Boswell in a key Class A, Region One Section One game Saturday afternoon at Bishop Donahue.
Boswell scored a career-high 38 points, including 24 in the second half and 13 in a row at one point in the decisive fourth quarter in the Blue Eagles' 61-55 victory.
"At one point I thought of maybe bringing in a witch doctor," Wise said.
He was joking.
To his point though, the sophomore was nearly unstoppable.
Up 41-38, Boswell got a key steal and layin after a missed free throw by teammate Kyle Ritz, and then was fouled on the other end and made both free throws.
After Bishop Donahue's Chaice Truex made a pair of free throws, and there were a lot of those, with the teams combining to shoot 55 in a game that saw 54 fouls called, Boswell went back to work with a jumper and then a pair of free throws on the next possession to make it 49-40 with six minutes left.
Bishop fought to cut the lead to five twice, the last time coming on a Bryce Jones layin in transition, off a perfectly placed pass by Jared Yates, making it 58-53 with 59.7 secionds remaining.
Boswell then split a pair of free throws (he was 15 of 18 in the game and made 12 straight at one point) then Magnolia sealed it when Boswell corralled the last of his seven rebounds and fired an a wide open Mitch Winters on a runout for a 61-53 lead.
"We have grown to expect that kind of performance from Preston," Magnolia coach Dave Tallman said. "All the hard work he and his dad John (a former Magnolia and Wheeling Jesuit player) did in the offseason really paid off. He just took the game over and we really needed it."
"He just took the game over," Wise said. "He played one heck of a game. He stuck it to us. He made big shots when they needed them and he got to the line consistently."
Especially with Spencer Campbell out for the second straight game. He will return Monday at Cameron.
"I felt like I wanted in my hands late in the game, but most of it is my teammates getting me the ball," Boswell said. "It's a big win, especially without Spencer here. It shows we can win games, but we're obviously better offensively when he is in the lineup."
Both teams struggled shooting the ball, especially early in the game, and the foul situation for each didn't help.
Magnolia (14-6, but 9-0 on the road) couldn't buy a basket in the opening quarter.
"How many early shots did we miss inside from our bigs?" Tallman asked. "We just have to finish. These kids are young, but at this point, we've played 20 games. Preston did a great job stepping up. We need to get more contributions but this was a great win."
Bishop Donahue (15-6) struggled mightily, even on putbacks and transition shots that normally fall.
"I'm not going to make excuses (with the foul situation)," Wise said. "We missed layups. We missed a lot of shots, point-blank, that we usually make. We're up seven early (actually nine, at 18-9) and all of a sudden we can't make a shot. Defensively, they played well. We helped the situation, though. We needed to take advantage of the situations and we didn't get the job done."
It was Magnolia that struggled early, before Boswell hit a 35-foot running 3 at the buzzer to pull Magnolia to within two, 11-9, at the end of the first.
Bishop promptly went out and started the second with a 7-0 run to make it 18-9 before Magnolia answered with its own 7-0 run and ended the half with a 23-21 lead.
"Huge run at that point," Tallman said. "I thought we did a real good job as a team from that point."
Boswell was the only player in double figures for the Blue Eagles.
The Bishops were led by Jones and Jesse Padlow, who had 16 each. Truex had 12 points and 15 rebounds, 10 of those rebounds coming in the fourth quarter.
The real question is, which of the teams will get the No. 2 seed behind Wheeling Central for the sectional tournament, which starts next Saturday, and which will get the No. 3 seed and play host to a first-round game.
A case can be made for both teams.
Wise said the magnitude of the game wasn't lost on his players.
"These guys are smart, they know what the situation is," he said. "Bottom line is, we didn't get the job done. I still think we have done enough to deserve (the No. 2 seed). We'll see on Monday (when the seeds are announced)."