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Burton survives Eastside, ends region title drought

Kevin Mays • Feb 24, 2019 at 3:48 AM

WISE — J.I. Burton coach Aaron Williams had to think for a minute or two Saturday about the last time the Raiders won a Region D boys basketball championship.

He didn’t seem too concerned about it.

“I know the last time that us and our kids have won and this was a first. So this is the first time we’ve won a Region D for our kids and that’s all that matters,” Williams said after his team defeated Eastside 63-62 to claim the regional championship at Virginia-Wise’s Prior Convocation Center. “I know we won tonight.”

Williams then recalled that the last time Burton won the regional championship was in 1989, under legendary coach Stan Wilson.

“I looked at the banner today. It’s been 30 years. I looked at the banner tonight. Our banner is full, so we’ll have to get another one,” Williams said.

ANOTHER CLOSE ONE

Burton seemed on its way to raising the banner in the third quarter when the Raiders (21-7) built a 50-38 lead. But Eastside used a 9-4 scoring run to cut the Burton lead to 54-47 going into the final period.

View the photo gallery from the game

The Raiders went ahead big again in the fourth quarter, building a 61-49 advantage with just over six minutes remaining in the game.

But Eastside (24-4) again responded, this time with a 13-0 run — the first eight points coming from Ethan Powers — to take a 62-61 advantage with 1:13 left in the game.

“We cooperated, I felt like, in that. Not to take credit from them, but we missed some layups that I thought we should have converted,” Williams said.

“But you know, there’s going to be runs in the game, and the championship game wasn’t last night,” he added. “It was tonight and we came ready for that.”

“PLAYING DESPERATE”

Powers, who finished with 13 points, said his team tried to pick up the pace in the final quarter to cut into the Burton lead.

“You have to start playing desperate when it gets close to the end,” Powers said. “I felt like I just waited a little too late to do that.”

FINAL MINUTE

With Eastside leading by one, only one basket was made in the final minute.

Caleb Williams hit a shot from underneath the basket with 50 seconds left to put the Raiders up for good.

Eastside missed a shot on the other end of the floor, and Burton’s Derrick Allen grabbed the rebound and was fouled.

Allen missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free-throw attempt, but he made two big defensive plays, including a block on the Spartans’ attempt to get off a final shot to secure the win for the Raiders.

“It was very risky. I probably shouldn’t have done it,” Allen said. “They made that one earlier at the end of one of the quarters, and I didn’t want them to make another one for the game.”

SCORING

Houston Thacker powered the Burton offense with 23 points, Zac Campbell contributed 12 and Trevor Culbertson finished with 10.

Eastside got 21 points from Garrett Whited.

STATE PLAY

As regional finalists, Burton and Eastside advanced to the VHSL Class 1 quarterfinals.

Burton will host George Wythe on Friday at 8 p.m. at Virginia-Wise.

Eastside will travel to face Auburn that night at a site that has not yet been determined.

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