RICHMOND — Pat Summitt’s known for saying that rebounding wins championships. J.I. Burton’s dominance of the glass has the Lady Raiders on the cusp of one.
Burton shot 50 percent from the field and easily won the battle of the boards in a 67-53 victory over Riverheads on Thursday at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center. With the win, J.I. Burton (28-0) advances to today’s Group A, Division 1 state girls basketball championship game.
The Lady Raiders, who ended the regular season as the top-ranked team in Group A in The Associated Press poll, have met every objective they’ve set this season. Almost.
“There’s one more goal looming, absolutely,” coach Mike Goforth said.
Burton will face Surry County (21-4) today at 2 p.m. If Burton crashes the boards like it did Thursday, it could be tough to beat. The Lady Raiders outrebounded Riverheads by a 46-26 margin, and grabbed 15 offensive boards.
Ra’Shelle Miller set the tone, grabbing 19 boards and also tallying 23 points, seven assists, three blocks and two steals.
Miller had the gaudy stat line, but the shooting of sophomore Iris Hill propelled Burton to a strong start in a game the Lady Raiders led from wire to wire. Hill single-handedly carried a 10-0 first-quarter run for the Lady Raiders that staked her team to a 14-4 lead with five minutes showing in the period.
Riverheads never even got back within one possession.
Hill finished with 20 points, scoring 14 in the first quarter. She went 8-of-10 from the field and 3-of-4 from 3-point range, setting the tone for a Burton team that shot 50 percent for the game — 57.9 percent in the first half.
“When I scouted them last Saturday in their quarterfinal, she didn’t shoot that well,” Riverheads coach Tim Morris said.
“I thought our patience was tremendous. These girls made the ball fakes and head fakes and made the jump shots,” Goforth said. “In the quarterfinal, we couldn’t buy a bucket.”
A 10-of-12 effort at the free throw line in the second quarter by Riverheads made it a 35-29 game at halftime. Back-to-back and-one baskets got the Gladiators within 39-34, but a 2-of-12 shooting performance in the third period preventing Riverheads from making a serious rally.
The Gladiators started the fourth quarter with a 7-2 spurt, which Miller stifled on her hoop and harm at the 6:21 mark. Kelsie Floyd, who had a team-high 15 points at the time, fouled out on the play.
“I knew she was one of their beter players. I did my job, crashed the boards and made her draw the foul,” said Miller, who amassed nine points, 10 rebounds and three assists in the fourth quarter.
Chelsea Forney added 10 points and eight rebounds for Burton, which got six points off the bench from Jazz Hill.
Rebecca Grubb scored 17 points and Floyd 15 for Riverheads (18-4), which was the visiting team on the scoreboard but might as well have been playing at home. The Gladiators had a massive student cheering section make the relatively short trip from Staunton.