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Eagles Advance to State Tourney

March 6, 2019

Magnolia went on a 9-0 run in the final minutes of play to claim back-to-back Region I Co-Final Championships, by the score of 41-33 and over a dejected Weirton Madonna squad. The high school girls basketball action happened Feb. 28 inside a packed MHS Gymnasium.

Magnolia was down, 33-32, after an Andrea Alimaro basket with 3:30 left in regulation. Kyndra Pilant received a perfect pass from Sierra Walker, over top the out-stretched hands of Jazzy Melnyk, for an easy deuce to start the 9-0 run. Lara Ann Smith drained her only basket on the Eagles' next trip, from the right elbow, to put the Big Blue up by three and causing a Weirton Madonna time-out at 2:10.

Neither team scored a basket the rest of the way, but Magnolia cashed in on 5-9 from the free throw line, with the Eagles' only senior, Aquera Cabral, ending the game 2-2 from the line to end the game.

Article Photos

Photo by Bruce Crawford
Pictured is the 2018-2019 W.Va. Class A Region I Co-Champion Magnolia Blue Eagles and coach staff. The Eagles defeated Madonna to advance to Charleston.

"We've been in this regional final before," Magnolia coach Meredith Pilant said. "Most of these girls have played in it and have been successful. We have some big time players who know how to play in big games and know how to play when it comes down to the wire and I think it showed in the last couple of minutes. They stayed calm when they could have fallen apart.

"We talked about staying focused and sticking to the game plan. I can't give enough credit to my assistant Mark Winters. He drew up a heckuva game plan and they followed it and executed it. That made a huge difference (Thursday)."

After taking on the chin, 69-38, at Madonna in their last meeting, the Blue Eagles were glad they were playing the Blue Dons on their own turf once again for a chance to go back to the state tournament.

Mady Winters opened the game with a text book drive to the basket for the game;s opening points, but the Blue Dons added a pair of Melnyk baskets before Winters swished 1-2 free throws with 3:02 left in the opening stanza.

The lefty Alimaro swished a pair of baskets, while Winters sank 2-2 from the free throw line, and the period ended with a Melnyk rebound and went coast-to-coast to close-out the 10-5 first quarter with a lay-in.

Winters and Melnyk traded baskets, and with the Blue Eagles struggling to find someone to put the ball into the hoop from outside to open up the inside, in came Sierra Walker to the rescue and swished 2-2 from beyond the arch to do just so with Winters and Kyndra Pilant taking care of business to give Magnolia a 20-18 lead at the break with a 15-8 second period run.

In the third period, only nine points were scored as Magnolia opted to sit on the ball to open up the paint, with Winters scoring the Eagles' first goal, and Pilant the other two. Meanwhile, the Lady Blue Dons' only points came from Gia Ricadenna from beyond the arch setting up the exciting last period of play.

Winters and Pilant each recorded double-doubles, with Winters leading the way with a game-high 20 points and 14 rebounds, while Pilant scored 11 points and 14 rebounds. She also added four of everything else in assists, steals and blocks. Walker followed with two very much-needed three-pointers, while Cabral and Smith each scored two points.

Melnyk paced the Blue Dons with 12 points, while Alimaro and Kennedy Martin equally shared 12 markers to lead the 17-7 Madonna squad.

The win pushed the No. 3 seed Lady Blue Eagles against No. 6 seed Morgantown Trinity this morning, March 6, at 9:30 a.m. inside the Charleston Civic Center.



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