EWING — For the higher seeds in the Cumberland District tournament, the semifinals no longer presented a win-or- go-home scenario.
The four teams involved in Friday’s boys semifinals at Thomas Walker High School played like it anyway.
St. Paul and Castlewood advanced to tonight’s championship game after two spirited contests.
Tyler Phillips and Corey Ellis propelled the third-seeded Deacons past No. 2 Coeburn 73-66 in a mild upset. Castlewood, the top seed and regular-season district champ, dominated the third quarter en route to a 67-38 victory over fourth-seeded Twin Springs.
All four teams will take part in a quadruple-header today at Thomas Walker that begins at 3 p.m. with the girls’ third-place game between Rye Cove and Castlewood. The Coeburn and Twin Springs boys follow in their consolation game. Ervinton and Coeburn will tip off the girls’ championship at about 6:30 p.m., with the boys’ title game between St. Paul and Castlewood wrapping up the night.
If the Deacons can replicate their performance against Coeburn, they could be tough to beat tonight.
St. Paul (19-5) shot 60 percent in the first half and never trailed after intermission. Coeburn tied the game at 51-all early in the fourth quarter on Holden Burke’s 3-pointer, but the Deacons responded with a 7-0 run to regain control.
For St. Paul, though, it was all about that strong start. Phillips converted a trio of three-point plays during the Deacons’ first half, during which the senior tallied 15 of his 21 points.
“That’s the thing we couldn’t do the first two times we played Coeburn; we couldn’t get any momentum at all,” said Phillips, who also grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds.
When the Blue Knights started rolling in the second half, St. Paul snatched the momentum right back. Freshman Reid Edmonds drove the lane for an and-one bucket to break the 51-51 deadlock, and made the assist to Phillips for another basket during the pivotal 7-0 run.
Edmonds totaled nine points and six assists. In the eight games since he took over as starting point guard, St. Paul only has lost once — to Castlewood.
“The past couple games, he’s just been lights out,” Phillips said.
Ellis wasn’t too shabby, either, scoring a game-high 23 points, including hitting 7 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Andrew Pate and Phillip Riner, Coeburn’s big posts, had big games to match. Riner totaled 21 points and 14 rebounds. Pate went for 22 points, nine boards and four assists.
St. Paul coach Patrick Damron installed a 3-2 zone for this game after going 0-2 against Coeburn in the regular season playing its usual man defense.
Twin Springs also apparently went to a zone against Castlewood. Titans coach John McCrary later clarified it was a sagging man defense.
By any name, it put Castlewood (17-4) on its heels early and had the Titans leading 11-5 after one quarter.
It didn’t last.
“I knew we’d shoot our way out of it,” Blue Devils coach Wayne Rasnick said. “We’ve got some good shooters. We’re willing to sacrifice our post play to shoot from the perimeter.”
And shoot they did. Castlewood sank nine 3-pointers as a team.
“We had to take something away from them and their big guys killed us both times we’d played them,” McCrary noted.
Ahead 26-22 at the break, a pair of second-half runs by the Devils made it a blowout. Castlewood opened the third quarter on a 12-2 onslaught, and enjoyed a 13-2 spurt to start the fourth frame.
Justin Smith’s 20 points paced the Devils, with Seth Justice adding 12 and Zach Bush 10. Smith and Justice each hit three treys.
David Campbell tallied 17 points for the Titans (11-11), who still should make the Region D, Division 1 bracket.