NEW MARTINSVILLE - When you have the state's leading scorer at your disposal, the thought process says putting the ball in the basket won't be much of a problem. That's why Magnolia coach Dave Tallman spent the days leading up to his team's West Virginia Class A Region One co-Final working on the defensive side of the equation.
The Blue Eagles (21-4) held normally hot-shooting Clay-Battelle (17-9) to 39-percent shooting and had five players in double figures during a 96-71 demolition Thursday night at Magnolia High School that punched another trip to the state tournament in Charleston. The Blue Eagles earned the No. 2 seed and will meet No. 7 Wheeling Central in the first round at 1:30 on Wednesday inside the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum.
''Everybody always said Magnolia-Tug Valley and that's all you heard all year,'' Tallman said. ''Now we're going to go down and try to do it for the North. We've got down there and lost the first game three years in a row. We want to change that.''
Magnolia has all the look of a serious state-title contender, leaving a trail of carnage in its wake along the tournament trail. The Blue Eagles have won their last two games by an average of 19.5 points, and made a believer of Cee-Bees coach Josh Kisner.
''One of our big keys was to give them one shot and rebound,'' Kisner said. ''But, man, their one shot went in every time. They basically outshot us.''
Led by freshman point guard Preston Boswell who scored a game high-tying 23 points, the Blue Eagles shot 57 percent from the field and knocked down nine 3-pointers. Magnolia exploded to a 30-16 lead after one quarter and never looked back.
''We're so big that we're afraid of a good team spreading us out if they get the lead on us, so we emphasize that,'' Tallman said of the quick start. ''You've got to contest every shot and get the long rebounds.
''That was the thing that we worked on the whole time. We didn't talk about offense the whole time, we talked about defensive stuff.''
Wheeling Jesuit recruit Mark Winters finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds and four assists, but his biggest bucket came with 1:39 remaining in the first half. Not only did that give the Blue Eagles a 41-27 lead, but it broke the all-time school scoring record (2,024 points) of Ted Talkington.
''Mark's worked so hard,'' Tallman said. "WJU coach Danny Sancomb has a good one, but I still don't think he's really hit his potential yet.''
The Cee-Bees knocked off the Blue Eagles by 20 early in the season, but couldn't pull off another upset despite the play of Logan Opyoke, who had 23 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
''The last six or seven games he's been the go-to guy offensively,'' Kisner said. ''I don't know what it is but it's like a light bulb clicked on. He's been hard to stop.
''He's long and athletic and would like to play somewhere in the future. Hopefully I can help him achieve that.''
Stephen Rogalski added 20 points for the Blue Eagles, while Zach Wilhoite was unstoppable underneath with 17 points and four blocked shots. Kyle Elliott hit a pair of 3s in the first quarter and finished with 11 points.
Cannon Brummage and Zach Chisler backed Opyoke with 17 and 14 points, respectively.
''This is a real opportunity for us,'' Tallman said. ''We have to make it a business trip and take care of things as they come.
''It's a great group of guys to take because they're great a great group of kids first of all, and they're great friends.''