NEW MARTINSVILLE - Thursday's Class A, Region One boys' basketball co-Final at Magnolia supplied everything that a high school fan could ask for.
An electric atmosphere, comebacks and primetime players making big-time plays made this classic one to remember and it was Madonna that made the most plays in the end to secure a spot in the state tournament with an 54-50 victory against host Magnolia.
The Blue Dons finished the game on an 10-2 run in the final 1:15 to erase a 48-44 deficit and senior Joey Ewusiak connected on all seven of his free throws in the fourth quarter to help lift Madonna to a regional title.
"Coach (Chris) Blair always puts us through scenarios in practice," Ewusiak said. "He tells us all of the time that foul shots win games and he proved that right here. He tells us in practice to always stay composed and I was ready for it."
Free throws did win this game as the Blue Dons delivered on 13 of 17, while the Blue Eagles managed to make 4 of 16 shots from the line and 3 of 11 in the fourth quarter.
"If we make our free throws down the stretch, we are going to Charleston," Magnolia coach Dave Tallman said. "There is nothing we can do about that now but I'm just really proud of the way our team played and for winning the sectional."
Madonna rallied from 21-13 down in the second quarter to take its first lead with 4:22 left in the third. The Dons' advantage got up to 41-33 with seven minutes remaining in the game but once again Magnolia used a 13-1 run to secure a 46-42 edge with 1:57 to go in the action. However, the Dons' clutch shooting down the stretch finally sealed a win.
"Our guys have been through the trials and tribulations," Madonna coach Chris Blair said. "We have been to this game a couple of times and there was a lot on the line. We knew Magnolia was going to come out with some different defenses and credit to them. They played hard and their role players stepped up and made numerous 3s and we didn't have our best game by any stretch of the imagination. We just have guys who never quit and are tough as nails. We never believed that we weren't going to win this game and I am so proud of our guys."
Seven seniors saw action for Madonna and they have had this moment in mind since they first took the floor, four years ago.
"The past four years we have been waiting for this senior year because we knew we had a special group of kids," Ewusiak said. "Coach Blair put us through a lot in the offseason and all of that hard work paid off in the last couple seconds of the game.
"This feeling is undescribable."
Magnolia jumped to a 6-0 lead out of the gate behind a fired-up fanbase and it took a 21-17 edge into halftime.
"Our student section was unbelievable," Tallman said. "They were loud and this was a great atmosphere for high school basketball. It was our sixth man."
After Madonna captured the lead in the second half, it was Magnolia senior Jacob Fruner who drained a deep 3-pointer to knot the game at 42-42 with 3:44 remaining, while teammate Nick Priem got the rally started with a three of his own with 5:46 left to cut the deficit to 41-39. He struck again with 1:57 to go by hitting a trey that looked like it was the dagger the Blue Eagles needed, with a 46-42 edge.
"I am really proud of the way Nick (Priem) played," Tallman said. "He has a great work ethic and it really came through."
Moments later with Magnolia leading 50-46 with a minute to go, the senior duo of Tavon Jeter and Ewusiak delivered back-to-back buckets, followed by a pair of free throws from Tripp Moore to give the Blue Dons the lead. Ewusiak added a pair of foul shots to seal the victory with 10 seconds on the clock.
"Joey (Ewusiak) is a big-time player, who had a big-time game," Blair said. "I knew he was going to step up and make plays."
Ewusiak paced Madonna with 23 points, followed by 10 from Jeter.
Priem led the Blue Eagles with 16 points, Leo Herrick tallied 12 points, while Fruner and Brooks Parsons each turned in nine for Magnolia.