NEW MARTINSVILLE - It's the game that had Magnolia coach Mark Blair on edge for days, the Blue Eagles' sectional matchup with Madonna.
''This game worried me,'' Blair said. ''You just don't know how the kids are going to play. In a sectional game, you either win and advance or you go home. If you have one bad game in a sectional tournament, you're done.''
Good news for Blair, his Eagles aren't done.
Photo by Tony Viola
Magnolia’s Grace Berisford, left, brings the ball down the court against Madonna’s Cameron Dowiak during their sectional game Tuesday night in New Martinsville.
Sisters Mallory and Kesli Chapman made sure of that as they had their finger prints all over Magnolia's 57-47 victory in a Class A Region One, Section One semifinal.
The victory pits the No. 9-ranked Blue Eagles against No. 4 Wheeling Central Friday night at the John Marshall Field House.
''I'm just happy we can advance and move on,'' Blair said. ''It was a nice win for us. I thought our girls never gave up. They kept fighting and fighting and hustling. You just don't know what's going to happen during sectionals.''
After the Blue Eagles (12-8) used a 14-2 run to end the second quarter to go into halftime ahead 31-19, the end result never seemed in question. Expect to Blair.
''I told the girls at halftime this game wasn't over with,'' Blair said. ''Madonna made their runs. They like to shoot the 3.''
Indeed the Blue Dons do.
Especially Mikaela Lenhart. Her back-to-back 3s helped the Blue Dons (13-9) go on a 12-4 run to open up the second half and suddenly it was a six point game at 37-31.
''There was a look we thought was open much of the first half, but we just weren't seeing it,'' Madonna coach Don Ogden said. ''At halftime we emphasized to the girls to start looking for it. They did and we made a little bit of a run.''
It was then the Chapman sisters started to take over as Kelsi knocked down a 3 off an assist from Mallory to put the Blue Eagles ahead 45-33 early in the fourth.
Rebecca Holt made it a 10-point game on a 3 of her own with 2:40 to go and Rachel Grubbs cut the deficit to single digits with a put back. That's when Blair decided he needed to calm his team down and called a timeout.
''Our girls, when we get out of sync, they do something crazy,'' he said. ''They're going to take a bad shot or throw the ball away. Just run the offense and take some time off the clock and make a good shots. If you miss it, so what? At least you ran 20 seconds off the clock.
''There's a time in a basketball game where, if you're up by eight or nine, you actually are playing against the clock and not the other team. We just needed to run some clock, run our offense and if we scored, that's just icing on the cake.''
That must mean Kelsi Chapman is the team baker.
The freshman went 5 of 6 from the foul line in the final 90 seconds to seal the victory for the Blue Eagles.
''Kelsi Chapman shoots a lot of foul shots during practice,'' Blair said. ''We have this foul shooting game we call shoot till you make, shoot till you miss. There will be days she'll make 24 or 25 foul shots in a row. In the fourth quarter, it was nice to have her at the foul line.''
Kelsi ended the game with 12 points and three steals, while Mallory, the only senior to play in the game, finished with a game-high 24 points to go with 10 rebounds and four assists.
''Mallory Chapman is my coach on the floor,'' Blair said. ''She's been with me now for two years. She's our leading scorer. She's a leader, she's a competitor and she hates to lose. She'll do anything she can to win.''
Grace Berisford added 11 points and Katie Blatt had 12 rebounds and nine points.
Sophomore Monica Bragg led the Blue Dons with 19 points and was 9 of 10 from the foul line.
''Monica Bragg, I've been worried about her for two or three days,'' Blair said. ''She's a player. We were trying to contain her, but she has a nice shot.''
While the Blue Dons season ended for the second consecutive year in New Martinsville, Ogden was still proud of his young teams performance.
''Things that we would try that worked, (Magnolia) made adjustments to,'' he said. ''Then we'd have to try something else, but, overall, they're a good team. We played well. I have nothing negative about our performance. I thought the girls played well. We came up 10 points short, but that's the way it goes. I'm excited to see who wins Friday night.''