WEIRTON - Madonna matched Magnolia field goal for field goal in Wednesday's clash at the Dubie Dome. Both teams finished with 22 deuces and nine triples.
The state-ranked Blue Eagles left town, however, with an 89-72 victory by converting 18 of 22 chances from the charity stripe. The Blue Dons, on the other hand, went to the line just five times, making only one.
"I've always said basketball games are won at the line," Madonna's George Vargo noted. "Magnolia certainly proved that point tonight."
RUNNING THE OFFENSE — Madonna’s Ross Comis comes around a Tyler Ewusiak screen during the Blue Dons’ 89-72 loss to Magnolia Wednesday at the Dube Dome.
-- Fred Younce
With the victory, Dave Tallman's club moves to 16-4. The Dons fall to 8-13 and will begin Region 1, Section 1 play Saturday at Cameron. The tip is set for 7 p.m.
The visitors from Wetzel County appeared poised to record a blowout early. Hitting six of their first seven shots, the Eagles raced to a 14-2 lead. Senior standout Mark Winters put an exclamation point on the first quarter run by flushing one home after a steal on the defensive end.
Madonna's Ross Comis, making just his second start since returning from an injury, wasn't about to let his team get run out of its own gym. The junior guard keyed an 11-0 Blue Don burst to make it 19-18. He swished a pair from behind the arc and recorded two on a nifty drive to the basket. Sophomore James Carnes buried a deep ball off a Comis assist.
A hoop by Zach Wilhoite put Magnolia up 21-18 after one. The Eagles went eight for 13 from the floor during the opening eight minutes.
"We could have died in the first quarter but we came back and played hard," Vargo pointed out. "We took their best shot and made it a game."
Magnolia scored the first seven of the second stanza (Winters getting five) to extend its advantage to 10 (28-18). The Eagles led 46-32 at the intermission. During the initial periods, Tallman's crew was 16 of 27 from the floor (six for 10 from three-point land) and seven for eight from the line. Winters registered 22 markers, 17 coming during the second.
The Dons hung tough in the third, outscoring Magnolia 25 to 19. They were red-hot from the floor, hoisting 14 shots and hitting 11. Carnes scored 10 and Tyler Ewusiak six. A Spencer Campbell make at the buzzer allowed the Eagles to take a 65-57 lead into the final quarter.
A 7-0 burst to open the period, two coming on Winters' second slam of the game, allowed Magnolia to regain a comfortable lead and put the game out of reach.
"Without a doubt, that was our best effort of the season," Vargo said. "I'm so proud of our kids, they played an outstanding game. Give Magnolia credit, they were like a small college team out there tonight with Winters getting those two dunks. Plus, they shot the ball so well."
The Eagles shot 51 percent from the floor (31 for 60). Madonna wasn't bad either, canning 31 of 62 attempts (50 percent).
"I thought our kids played well and made good decisions," Tallman noted. "Madonna is a much better team with Comis and they never quit. Of course, Madonna never quits."
Winters finished with 38 points and grabbed eight of his team's 28 rebounds. Wilhoite contributed 19 and Stephen Rogalski 12. He buried his first three tries of the night (two coming from downtown).
"Mark is our go-to guy, no question about it," Tallman said of Winters. "We expect him to be our leader and have games like this.
"All of our guys are playing with confidence right now and that's something we need as we approach tournament play."
Carnes, who swished five triples, led Madonna with 21. Comis had 20 and six assists. Ewusiak added 14 and four assists.
"Ross gives us a sense of confidence," Vargo pointed out. "He brings a lot to the table that you just can't teach. He played well tonight. I think having him in there really helped James (Carnes). He was able to get his feet set and make some big shots."
Will Bowser hauled down seven rebounds for the Dons who had 26 as a team. Josh Martin and Carnes collected five each.
"I thought Bowser had an outstanding game for us, matching up inside with Winters," Vargo added. "And Martin did a nice job of stabilizing the middle for us. He caused trouble in the paint and that's what we want from him."
The Blue Eagles are back in action today, hosting Parkersburg. They'll close the regular season Friday with a home date against Greater Beckley Christian.
As Vargo noted, Madonna is now headed for its "second season."
"The second season starts Saturday and the second season is the real season," he said.
If Madonna manages to knock off Cameron, it will travel to Magnolia on Tuesday to continue tournament play.
Magnolia 89, Madonna 72
Magnolia 21 25 19 24 - 89
Madonna 18 14 25 15 - 72
MAGNOLIA (16-4): Brookover 0 0-0 0; Campbell 1 1-2 3; Emch 0 2-2 2; Boswell 3 1-2 8; Elliott 2 0-1 5; Rogalski 3 4-4 12; Mark Winters 14 7-8 38; Wilhoite 8 4-4 19; Mike Winters 1 0-0 2. TOTALS 31 18-22 89. 3-pointers: Boswell, Elliott, Rogalski (2), Mark Winters (4), Wilhoite; Rebounds 28 (Mark Winters 8); Turnovers 10.
MADONNA (8-13): Comis 8 0-2 20; Guio 3 0-0 6; Ewusiak 7 0-0 14; Retton 0 0-0 0; Bowser 0 1-2 1; Carnes 8 0-0 21; Higgins 0 0-0 0; Stakias 1 0-0 2; Martin 3 0-0 6; Mazur 0 0-0 0; Antinone 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 31 1-5 72. 3-pointers: Comis (4), Carnes (5); Rebounds: 26 (Bowser 7); Turnovers: 13.