LEBANON — Ra’Shelle Miller was a non-factor during the first half Wednesday night. The second half was a different story altogether.
Miller scored all 16 of her points after intermission, including 11 in the third period, and top-seeded J.I. Burton rallied to defeat No. 5 Pound 49-38 in the semifinals of the Region D, Division 1 girls basketball tournament at Lebanon High School.
Miller played just four first-half minutes Wednesday after collecting two quick fouls. The senior’s teammates did a fine job limiting Pound in her absence, however. The Lady Raiders trailed by just two points at halftime.
The second half, which opened with a lay-in courtesy of Miller, was all Burton (25-0). The Lady Raiders advanced to meet second-seeded Ervinton in Saturday’s regional final at Virginia High. The Lady Rebels dispatched No. 6 Rye Cove 55-42 in Wednesday’s nightcap.
Both Burton and Ervinton also earned spots in the Group A, Division 1 state quarterfinals.
“We were lucky,” Burton coach Mike Goforth said. “We played some great defense in the second quarter. I told my coaches that if we held Pound under 45 (points), we were going to win.”
Early on, it appeared Pound (17-9) would threaten to shatter the Raiders’ perfect season. The Wildcats, with Miller off the floor, shrugged off a fairly slow start and eventually established a six-point lead, 20-14, with three minutes left in the second quarter.
Burton had other ideas, though. Sharp defensively, the Lady Raiders held Pound scoreless for the rest of the half. They did just enough at the other end to remain close.
After the break, the Raiders pushed the tempo — and reaped the benefits. Pound turned over the ball on its first two possessions of the half, a sign of what was to come. The Lady Wildcats finished with 21 turnovers; Burton scored 15 points off those, mostly in transition.
Sparked by Iris Hill’s theft and lay-in, a 10-2 run with three minutes to play effectively sealed Burton’s passage into the Division 1 region title game.
“I challenged them (at halftime),” Goforth said. “I said, ‘It’s your season. If you guys want to turn your stuff in and go to the house, we can do that.’
“We had to pick it up, and the girls really did.”
Chelsea Forney added 11 points for the Lady Raiders. Hill and Brianna Stallard each finished with seven.
Point guard Sheniqua Woods also was a key contributor, just at the other end of the floor. She held Pound leading scorer Samantha Balthis, a junior who reached 1,000 career points in the first period of Thursday’s game, to just 13 — five in the second half.
“It’s hard,” Woods said of her defensive role on the team. “I’m used to it, though. I know I have to just pick it up every day.”
Later, Ervinton (23-3) sheltered a frantic late comeback bid from the Lady Eagles to advance. The Lady Rebels will be making their first-ever appearance in a regional final.
“Another first. We like making history,” Lady Rebels coach Jason Edwards said. “I hope we can keep it up.”
The trusted 1-2 punch of Kelly Rasnick (23) and Chelsea Hill (18) combined for 41 of Ervinton’s 55 points. Autumn Bond added seven points.
Shasta Edwards closed out her career with 19 points to lead Rye Cove. Christi Hood, also a senior, collected 14 points.
“Rye Cove never gave up,” Edwards said. “This is the fourth time we’ve played them this year. It’s hard to keep beating a team. We knew coming in it was going to be a tough game, but I’m proud of how we played.”