Talented young Powell Valley coach Zack Moore had high hopes to take the Vikings to the Region D tournament in his first season with the program.
Instead, wily J.I. Burton skipper Stan Wilson added a different footnote to the newcomer's resumÃ© as the Raiders prevailed by a 60-54 margin in Wednesday's Lonesome Pine District tournament semifinals at Coeburn High School.
In Wednesday's opening game, plucky Pound staved off an anticipated St. Valentine's Day massacre, hanging with Gate City for three quarters before falling 45-29.
The Raiders (15-9) and the Blue Devils (18-5) will square off in Friday's 7 p.m. championship game.
Powell Valley (14-11) had beaten J.I. Burton twice in district play and yet again in the Green Wave Classic tournament.
"I didn't want to go into the game thinking that we'd beaten them three times. But it is hard," Moore said. "I knew they were going to be ready to play. They wanted to beat us more than anybody."
Postseason upsets have been Wilson's specialty at Norton. He's taken the Raiders to the Region D tournament 19 times - but only four times as a district regular-season champ.
"I always like to beat Powell Valley. I was sad for Zack. He's a first year coach and doing a good job down there," Wilson said. "It just seems we've beat them one out of four and now we're going on. That's the way basketball is. It's a tournament game."
Neither squad was afraid to run with the other. The game stayed fast and close, with the lead changing hands 19 times.
Burton finally went ahead for good, 52-51 on a 3-pointer by Jaycob Coleman with 2:38 left to play. Jacob Caudill gave the Raiders some cushion on his inside bucket off Jay Coleman's assist moments later.
Burton shot an icy 18-for-33 at the free throw line for the duration. Jaycob Coleman bucked that trend in the last 24 seconds of play, going 6-for-6 at the charity stripe to preserve the win.
"All I was thinking was that I was going to make them. It wasn't a choice. I knew I couldn't go home if I didn't make them," said the sophomore phenom, who led the Raiders with 19 points, also dishing out 10 assists and grabbing five rebounds.
Ethan Stewart had 11 points and 13 rebounds while Pat Begley had 11 points. Raider 6-foot-8 post Adam Middleton had eight points and four blocks, including a rejection of a late Cedric Mitchell attempt that cost the Vikings a key possession.
Thomas Haines led the Vikings with 10 points. Mitchell and Delmas Lawson each added nine with Myron Pinkston and Theo Johnson scoring eight apiece.
Pound only trailed 16-15 at the half in the first game.
"Y'all need to be writing about Pound, the way they played," said Gate City coach Scotty Vermillion. "I thought Pound played with belief, they played hard and just out-possessioned us. They outplayed us.
"Unfortunately for them, they got tired and we got some easy baskets."
Tihlee Anderson led the charge in the Blue Devils' 15-0 run in the fourth quarter, scoring six of his 14 total points, also effecting three steals and an assist during that surge.
Jamie Hackney added 16 points for Gate City.
Post Erik Bolling scored 10 to pace Pound (7-17) with Dustin Fleming adding eight.