Powerful Altavista stops J.I. Burton boys

George Thwaites • Mar 7, 2013 at 4:28 AM

RICHMOND — All the snow that was dumped on Richmond Tuesday and Wednesday started melting away Thursday in the glare of the rising sun.In much the same way, the J.I. Burton boys basketball team’s state championship hopes also dissolved and trickled into the James River.Final Four fixture Altavista dominated the paint en route to taking a 47-26 win over the hopeful Raiders in Thursday’s VHSL Group A, Division 1 semifinal game at VCU’s Siegel Center.J.I. Burton (14-15) was making its first Final Four appearance since Stan Wilson took the Raiders to Charlottesville in 1990. The Colonels (23-4) were making their seventh Final Four appearance since 2002.“Our general thought going into this game was to put pressure on ,“ said Colonels coach Mike Cartolaro, whose team advanced to face the winner between Parry McCluer and West Point in Friday’s 3:45 p.m. title game. “Offensively for us, our biggest concern was changing defenses. They’ve played some special zone and man and stuff over the last few weeks. Our whole concentration was to make sure we understand what they’re playing.”Sophomore Juan Thornhill led Altavista with 14 points, also grabbing six rebounds and three steals and handing out two assists.“We know if we play defense hard, the offense will come to us,” said Altavista sophomore Demetrius Johnson, who scored 12 points.Meche Maulbeck added 10 for the Colonels, who scored 30 points inside the lane to Burton’s 10.The Raiders had no second-chance buckets and zero transition points, getting blanked in areas that otherwise helped fuel the Raiders’ postseason run. Altavista had five transition buckets and seven second-chance points, despite relative numerical parity on the offensive boards.“We were hesitant to attack. Their depth maybe hurt us a little bit, being able to run the floor and take advantage of those opportunities. But their team is fast. They were able to get back just as well as us,” said Burton coach Aaron Williams.

Alex Keys, who recorded a double-double in Burton’s state quarterfinal victory over Bland County, including the game-winning shot, was held to six points and four rebounds. McKenzie Blair, who hauled in 17 boards against the Bears in Salem, collected only five Thursday.

Even without the individual fireworks, Williams thought his Raiders rebounded adequately as a team to compete. Getting the ball to the hole past 6-foot-3 Demetrius Johnson and his 6-4 fraternal twin, Darius Johnson, was more problematic.

“This team got this far because of defense and rebounding. I thought we defended today and I thought we rebounded pretty well today. We just had a hard time scoring against their length," Williams said. “That’s something that hurt us this year, so that’s something we’ve got to take from this game as far as what we’ve got to do going forward.”

Ervin Beaty, who scored 37 points against Haysi in the Region D semifinal victory that sealed Norton’s state tournament bid, led Burton with 14 against the Colonels.

“We really couldn’t get anything going. I think from the start we were intimidated by their size. It was just hard to score against them,” Beaty said. “I’d heard (Altavista) has always been a pretty good team and they play hard and they always make it up here to Richmond. But after it got going, I realized it was just another game. I had to get out there and play."

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