Gate City's Tihlee Anderson (12) brings the ball upcourt against Twin Valley's Josh Looney (40) during Friday night's Region D semifinal game at Castlewood High School. Photo by Ned Jilton II.
CASTLEWOOD - Down two men. Still No. 1.
Drew Justice scored 20 points in his debut at point guard as top-ranked Castlewood held off J.I. Burton 58-55 in Friday night's Region D tournament semifinals at Castlewood High School.
In Friday's earlier semifinal, Jamie Hackney fired up 19 points as Gate City knocked Black Diamond District champion Twin Valley off its pedestal 55-51 in overtime.
Gate City (21-5) will face Castlewood (23-1) in tonight's 8 o'clock championship game. Both qualified for next week's VHSL Group A quarterfinals.
In the nightcap, heavily knee-braced Castlewood starting point guard Patrick Fisher came out limping in the first quarter after playing for only 42 seconds. Backup point guard Ryan Meade was at home in bed with the flu.
Justice, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, managed to grab 10 rebounds and distribute four assists while adapting to his difficult battlefield promotion.
"I cannot be more proud of Drew Justice," said Castlewood coach Aaron Williams.
"It's the first time he ever played point guard. Here's a kid that, in last year's region, he's scoring in the post. Today we're in a region game and he's bringing the ball down the court and getting us through the game."
Williams' Devils got other timely help. Ethan Collins hit four of Castlewood's 10 total 3-pointers on his way to 16 points. Chris Smith chipped in 13 while center Brad McReynolds scored seven and pulled down 10 boards.
"I'm really proud of my team collectively for overcoming the adversity," said Williams, who will make his first state tournament appearance after earning six consecutive Region D berths.
"We played this game without a point guard to go to the state. I don't know what will happen from here on out. We just don't know. But I wouldn't bet against them."
Burton (16-11) was the Cinderella squad in this year's regional bracket. Far from turning into a pumpkin, the Raiders gave Castlewood all it wanted - exactly as coach Stan Wilson had predicted.
Norton trailed 48-40 after Smith's 3-pointer for Castlewood with 6:54 left in the fourth quarter. Jacob Caudill gave the Raiders a spark off the bench with three consecutive buckets - including a 3-pointer - to pull the Raiders within 48-47 by his backdoor layup with 5:51 left to play.
After trailing by five, the Raiders again cut it to one on a Jaycob Coleman trifecta with just less than three minutes to play.
Coleman had the chance to tie it after sinking the first of two free throws with 7.2 seconds remaining. The second shot rimmed out and was rebounded by Justice, who was fouled and subsequently sank both his double-bonus free throws for the final margin.
In the final six seconds, the Blue Devils successfully tangled up Burton's inbounds play designed for a Caudill 3-pointer. Coleman grabbed the loose ball and fired a desperation 3 attempt of his own, but it bounced off the rim as time expired.
"We did all we could do. It was a super effort on our part," Wilson said.
"There was no doubt we were the underdog. They hit 10 threes. Some of them, I don't know how you could stop it. We played great defense and they earned every point they got."
The Raiders (16-11) got 20 points and 10 assists from Coleman while Ethan Stewart added 13 points and 11 rebounds. Caudill had nine points and Adam Middleton got six boards.
Gate City outscored Twin Valley 9-5 in overtime but arguably won the game on the last play of regulation.
The Scott County Blue Devils pushed the ball up the floor trailing 46-44 at 13.5 seconds and counting and Tihlee Anderson whipped it inside to Hackney, who drew the foul with 5.2 seconds remaining.
Hackney sank both of his freebies to seal overtime. More importantly, he hung the fifth foul on mighty Matthew Baldwin, a 6-7 man with a beard to prove it who patrolled the paint for Twin Valley's stingy zone defense.
"Council used to run it and Twin Valley runs it now, a zone with that big boy in the middle," said Gate City coach Scotty Vermillion. "They pressure the perimeter and don't give you the shot you want. The big boy just erases so many shots in there."
Anderson had 17 points and seven steals while Cody Salyer - who sank Gate City's final two free throws in overtime - added 10.
Twin Valley (19-5) got 16 points from impressive sophomore guard Garrett Horne. Hunter Simpson hit three 3s on his way to 16 while Josh Smith added 11.