2015 Blue Eagles Had Run for the Ages
Magnolia earned three come from behind wins on way to title
NEW MARTINSVILLE — Five years ago, the Magnolia boys’ basketball team turned in a three-day state tournament span that the Blue Eagle faithful will remember the rest of their lives. It was a trip down memory lane for Coach Dave Tallman as he reflected back on his Blue Eagles squad making an incredible state tournament run that was capped off by beating Wheeling Central in the championship game.
It certainly was no smooth sailing getting to the state championship game, however. From the looks of it, it seemed like Magnolia was going to be headed back to New Martinsville early as it was down 13 with 3:49 to go against Clarksburg Notre Dame in the quarterfinals.
The Irish featured sophomore Jarrod West. West just finished his junior campaign at Marshall University.
However, the Blue Eagles had other plans, and came roaring back to stun the Irish, 49-48.
The Irish had one last chance and after a layup went in and out, Mitch Winters, instead of grabbing the rebound, swatted the ball near mid-court as time expired and Magnolia advanced.
“You have father-son combination and his son was a sophomore at the time,” Tallman said. “We were down 13 and we had a group called the bench mob, when we made a bucket or there was a dead ball, we went to a full court press. And they were trying to hold the ball. We stole it a couple of times and they decided to hold the ball and we stole it a couple of times, they missed a couple of free throws and next thing you know, we’re back in it and of course Preston Boswell carries us to the semifinals with his play down the stretch.”
Boswell, a junior at the time, meshed a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left to cut the deficit to one. After a forced turnover, Boswell was fouled and made two free throws to give Magnolia the lead and the win.
“We just knew we had to get one stop at a time and take advantage of it when we did,” Boswell reflected. “At the time, probably nobody thought we could come back to even make it close. They were trying to run the clock so we had to force the action, so we were trapping every chance we could. We had several really close games that year so we were used to that sort of pressure. With a little luck, we were able to pull off one of the crazier comebacks.”
That comeback, however, would be a reoccurring theme for the Blue Eagles during the tournament as they saw themselves in an early deficit in the semifinals against Greater Beckley Christian, a team that rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat Magnolia during the regular season in New Martinsville.
Down 8-0 in the first quarter, Magnolia put together a rally of its own and pulled away to down the Crusaders, 59-46.
Wheeling Central overcame a six-point deficit with 1:42 to go and defeated Charleston Catholic in overtime followed by a victory against Williamstown to set the title matchup against Magnolia.
It was going to be the fourth matchup for the two teams of the year with the Blue Eagles holding a 2-1 advantage. Before the state championship game, the most recent contest was when the two met in the Class A Region One, Section One championship game where the Blue Eagles prevailed.
And just like the previous two games, Magnolia played from behind as the Maroon Knights took an early 8-0 lead.
“And just a little bit about our players, the reason we could do that is Derrick Blain, he inbounded the ball for us for three years flawlessly and never had a turnover,” Tallman said about their comebacks. “Mitch Winters, made the all-tournament team. He had 34 rebounds in three games. Kyle Ritz was our power forward and was a great defender. He picked up all the loose balls. Spencer Campbell was our lone senior on that team. He was the second leading scorer. He actually overcame an injury and guarded Chase Harler in a 1-3 chaser. He did a real nice job of guarding Chase even after sustaining a pretty bad injury. I give the people down at the Charleston Civic Center that worked on him a lot of credit.”
The Blue Eagles came from behind and grabbed the lead. Up by one with 3:20 to go, Magnolia was able to kill over two minutes of clock. However, they were whistled for a five-second violation, giving the Maroon Knights the ball.
With 27 seconds, Wheeling Central attempted a 3-pointer that was off the mark. And Campbell did the rest for Magnolia as he swished four straight free throws, making the score, 51-46, and giving the Blue Eagles the state championship.
“When Spencer was at the foul line, we had full confidence in him. He, to this day, was one of the best shooters I’ve played with,” Boswell said. “Especially from mid-range. Those free throws were nothing for him. But that game/season was so sweet because a large portion of the team lived on the same two streets. We’d been playing together since second grade. We played for each other.”
The West Virginia Class A Region One, Section One tournament could be argued that the competition was like a state tournament.
And who could argue? The section had four state-ranked teams battling it out. Along with Magnolia and Wheeling Central, who made it out, Cameron and Bishop Donahue were making noise throughout the season.
While the household names for the Blue Eagles and Maroon Knights were Boswell and Harler, both juniors at the time, the Dragons had a 6-foot-11 senior named Logan Routt.
The Bishops had a stellar cast of seniors, who only lost three games the entire year, all of which were at the hands of Magnolia.
“I remembered being at the Moundsville Fieldhouse and it was sold out. It was exciting basketball. Anybody that came to any of the games had to of got their money’s worth,” Tallman said.