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J.I. Burton, Eastside advance to 1D finals collision

JOHNNY WILSON, Sports Correspondent • Feb 23, 2019 at 3:03 AM

BRISTOL, Va. — The roadside is littered with favorites who didn’t get it done in the playoffs. It happens every February and March.

The 2018-19 John I. Burton boys basketball team is not one of those.

Taking on upstart Twin Valley, Burton rolled with relative ease Friday night at the Bearcat Den, blasting out to a comfortable halftime advantage and beating the Panthers by a 57-44 count in Region 1D semifinal play.

View the gallery from Friday’s semifinals

The victory put Burton (20-7) into Saturday’s Region 1D championship here at 7:30 p.m. against Eastside, a 63-53 winner over Grundy in Friday’s second semifinal. It also sent both Cumberland District teams to the VHSL Class 1 tournament.

Burton coach Aaron Williams is just glad, as they say, to win and advance.

“I thought we played a really good game defensively, especially in the first half,” the 10th-year veteran said. “That built us our lead and enabled us to get a little bit of a cushion. We didn’t play as sharp in the second half, but we had built a big enough cushion. Give Twin Valley some credit for that.”

PLENTY O’ CUSHION

J.I. Burton — which broke out of an 8-8 tie to lead 16-8 after one quarter — spread the ball around offensively, as is its nature.

Sharing the ball produced a 35-18 advantage at halftime for the Raiders, who were never threatened thereafter against the halfcourt- minded Panthers.

Caleb Williams worked the low post well and finished with a game-high 17 points for the Raiders, and slashing swingman Houston Thacker added 15. Thacker made two of Burton’s six 3-pointers, as did southpaw Jonah Cochrane.

“We’ve been able to get out and go,” said Coach Williams, whose team has topped 90 points a half-dozen times. “But we have a team that can play either way.

“I’ve said all year we don’t have any one guy that can carry us when we’re not playing well. We don’t have a star, but collectively we have a lot of nice pieces. And when we’re on our game, we can be a formidable opponent.”

TWIN VALLEY LEADERS

The Panthers, who defeated Thomas Walker in a tournament play-in game before upsetting Chilhowie in the quarterfinals, finished their season 14-13.

Tylor Keen paced Twin Valley with 15 points.

EASTSIDE STOPS GRUNDY

The Spartans (24-3) did the Cumberland proud in the nightcap, emerging from a war and claiming a 63-53 victory over a Grundy team that had lost only one game.

Ethan Powers scored 26 points to lead Eastside, the 2018 Class 1 runner-up, back to the state tournament.

“I mean, you never really expect it,” said Powers, an athletic 6-foot-1 junior guard who hit three 3s. “You don’t say I’m going to state and it just happens.

“Tonight was a tough game but when we got aggressive defensively it sped everybody up and that’s usually to our advantage.”

Eastside coach Patrick Damron credited his defense as well.

“I can’t say enough about our defensive pressure in the second half,” said Damron, who also received 16 points from Nick Livingston. “Garrett Whited and Grayson Whited ... they do a lot that doesn’t show up in the scorebook, like aggravating the opponent and speeding up the game.”

Livingston made two of Eastside’s eight 3s, as did John Robert Kilgore.

The game was extremely tight the first 24 minutes with Eastside leading by one point after the first, second and third quarters. But the Spartans owned the final period, outscoring Grundy 20-11.

The Golden Wave (24-2) were led by the 19-point effort of Hamilton Campbell, who bagged five 3-point jumpers.

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