Eagles Fall In Opener
By TRACY WATSON
For The Intelligencer
NEW MARTINSVILLE – It normally takes a pretty good effort by a pretty good basketball team to come into Magnolia High School and pull off a victory against Coach Dave Tallman’s Blue Eagles.
Tuesday night that was just the effort that Lou Tolzda received from his unbeaten Monroe Central squad.
Senior Bryan Duffy paced five double-figure scorers with 19 points and the Seminoles dropped in 11 bonus bombs on the night and canned 17 of 20 shots from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter to record a very impressive 86-69 victory against debuting Magnolia.
“This is a really big win for us,” Tolzda said. “I know it is early in the season, but thinking down the road, beating them on their home floor could be a huge thing come OVAC Tournament time.”
It was actually a game with three different stories as Monroe Central (5-0) led by as many as 20 points early in the second quarter, only to see Magnolia take a late third quarter lead, before putting it away in the fourth.
The ‘Noles had both the long-distance and transition game going early on, nailing five 3s in the first quarter and eight in the half, while getting seven quick points to begin the second to race to a 32-12 advantage.
Magnolia began chipping away and with junior Spencer Campbell scoring 15 of his career-high 32 points in the second chapter, the hosts trimmed the lead to 10 on three separate occasions before trailing 48-35 at the break.
A 10-4 run to start the third cut the lead to seven before a late 11-0 burst actually put the Blue Eagles ahead for the only time in the contest, 60-58. After Campbell had nailed three-pointers from each corner on consecutive possessions to knot the count at 58-58, Preston Boswell’s deuce at the one minute mark gave Big Blue a two-point lead. Curtis Nixon’s three-pointer late put the visitors back on top, 61-60, after three.
“That was an unbelievable come back, and it didn’t surprise me in the least with all the weapons they have, but we didn’t blink,” Tolzda said. “We hung in there and competed and nobody got excited.
“We got a couple buckets to start the fourth quarter and was able to loosen up and started feeling good again. Making free throws down the stretch was also big. And I can’t say enough about the scoring balance that we had.
“It’s a game of runs and we knew they had one coming, but we got the last one.”
Duffy gave the Seminoles a little breathing room, scoring eight of his 19 to begin the fourth and after a pair of Nixon free throws made it an eight point margin, Monroe Central was never threatened again.
“We worked so hard to get back into the game, and I think we just ran out of gas,” Tallman said. “Spencer Campbell had a terrific game, and really kept us in it in the middle two quarters, and we got the lead once, but just couldn’t get over the hump.
“There was a lot of youth out there, including four sophomores and a junior at times. I was really surprised at how bad we started out, and I believe the kids were too. There were a little bit of jitters with the opener, but there is a lot of basketball ahead and this team will get better.”
“The positive out of the whole thing is that the players are committed to this and I am committed to this, and if they continue to work their tails off we are going to be a great basketball team by the middle of the season.”
Nixon and Chandler Kuhn backed Duffy with 17 points each while combining for 17 rebounds. Zach Jorris added 12 and Levi Brown 10 for the winners and Tanner Burkhart added three 3s off the bench for nine.
Boswell finished with 17 for the Eagles, but was unable to get untracked from distance, while senior Zach Willhoite played most of the game in foul trouble and had just six. Magnolia had three players foul out of the game.
Both teams have tough games ahead as Monroe Central will host PVC powerhouse Fort Frye on Friday night while Magnolia takes on Class AAA Riverside that same night at the Charleston Civic Center before playing Cleveland Martin Luther King, Jr. at Marietta College on Saturday.