Pilant Takes Over Blue Eagles
By TRACY WATSON
NEW MARTINSVILLE — With veteran Coach Tom Tisher stepping down, the Magnolia girls’ basketball program has a new leader, a former All-West Virginia player as an assistant and a large group of underclassmen ready to step up and replace a trio of high-scoring graduates.
Meredith Pilant has taken over the reins of the Blue Eagles and will be joined on the bench by a familiar name to Magnolia fans, Mark Winters.
With the new coaching staff comes a turnover on the court as well as 1,000-point scorer Kelsey Chapman, high-scoring Taylor Ludewig and three-point specialist Jordan Delaney have all picked up diplomas. Also departed is Autumn Cecil, a starter early last year before breaking her leg.
The only senior on the roster, 5-foot-8 Logan Riggs, actually took over for Cecil last year and will be moving to point guard this year. Meanwhile, the only other returning starter is 6-foot sophomore forward Kyndra Pilant, who averaged a double-double last year, including 12 rebounds a game.
“Logan did an outstanding job stepping in when she was needed last year,” Meredith Pilant said. “She made a big difference for them and she has done nothing but improve her game and her leadership ability.
“Kyndra was a force underneath, and with what we have coming in this year her presence is only going to get bigger.”
Meredith Pilant is very excited about 5-11 junior forward Kennedy Parsons, who is out for basketball for the first time since 8th grade and has already earned a starting position. Winters’ “little” sister, 6-2 freshman Mady Winters joins Kyndra Pilant on the inside with the two forming a nice duo.
There is a four-way fight for the fifth starting position between three sophomores and a freshman. The sophomores are 5-9 Raegan Hale, 5-7 Lara Ann Smith and 5-2 Sierra Walker along with 5-4 freshman Leneica Grimm.
“I think it is pretty impressive for Kennedy Parsons to step into a starting spot after not playing for three years,” Meredith Pilant said. “She has been phenomenal. She is a do-it-all that has the same kind of athleticism as her brother (current Magnolia senior) Brooks (Parsons).
“And I can say the same thing about Mady Winters, who comes from a big basketball family that includes her brothers Mark, Mike and Mitch, all former Magnolia players. She is very athletic, and ready to go.
“Height is really our friend this year, and there really should not be many occasions where we get beat inside. Last year the strength of this team was outside shooting with Kelsey, Taylor and Jordan but we are going to transition to pounding the ball inside.”
Meredith Pilant, who has been a volleyball and track coach over the years but not basketball, is excited about her new opportunity and about getting going.
“They actually came to me and asked if I was interested in the job, so I talked to Mark about it and we felt we could do it,” she said. “I have always gotten along with these girls, and I have coached before, just everything but basketball.
“Everything has been going great. The girls spent a lot of time in the gym over the summer and have really improved. We also play a pretty good schedule for a young program. We play everybody in our section and region along with two good matchups with River. I think that Wheeling Central, as always, will be a good measuring stick, kind of let us know where we are at, and get us ready for the post-season.”
While Meredith Pilant admits that replacing last year’s graduated starters will not be easy, her and Winters are ready to take the program to the next step.
“The team lost in the first round of the sectional last year, and I know that is something that Logan and Kyndra have carried with them all year,” Meredith Pilant said. “And there is no question that it is always tough to replace three four-year starters, but we are looking to really build this program and get it back on the map.
“To say that the girls and the coaches are excited would be a big understatement.”