LEBANON — J.I. Burton’s Ervin Beaty exploded for a career-high 37 points to lead the Raiders to a 66-55 Region D tournament semifinal victory over second-seeded Haysi at Lebanon Friday night.
After the game, Norton coach Aaron Williams did his best to play it straight. There was something he’d been wanting to say for a long time.
“Ervin’s middle name is Moses,” Williams announced, barely containing his glee.
While playing the best game of basketball in his life, Beaty led his team out of the wilderness of regular-season mediocrity and into the promised land of next weekend’s VHSL Group A, Division 1 state tournament.
The Raiders (13-13) will take on Castlewood (20-5) in today’s 4 p.m. regional championship game at Virginia High. The Blue Devils held off Thomas Walker 50-40 in Friday’s opening semifinal game at Lebanon.
Haysi coach David Robinette had kept a close eye on the Raiders all season. Burton’s losses — including a humiliating defeat at Union — belied the gifted Raiders’ potential, he said.
“They’re physically strong and athletic, but they’re good basketball players, too,” Robinette said. “The key with them, I think they’ve always played well. They just haven’t shot well. Now they’re finally starting to make some outside shots.”
On Friday night, Burton shot well. Beaty shot extremely so — finishing 14-for-18 from the field.
After his three-point play off transition with 3:52 remaining in the first half, he went on a tear, scoring 24 consecutive points. He ran the floor. He drove to the hole. He took it off the dribble. He floated. He faded. He shot. He scored.
“He helped us out tonight. Yes,” Williams said. “And (guard) Kevin Van Ness gutted his way through the game. I thought defensively, that’s how we won the game. We covered their shooters and covered their ball-handlers.”
Beaty wasn’t the only Burton player who elevated his game to unprecedented heights. Alex Keys had a double-double, scoring 12 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. Van Ness distributed seven assists. McKenzie Blair hauled in an eye-popping 18 rebounds.
Burton’s legendary reputation for postseason prowess appears to be alive and well.
“Our coach told us that we’re more of a playoff team, because we didn’t do that good in the regular season. We’re trying to step it up more and more,” Beaty said.
Peyton O’Quinn scored 18 points to lead the Tigers (17-8), going 10-for-11 at the free throw line. Hunter Sutherland scored 13 points.
In the opener, Reid Edmonds scored 18 points to clinch Castlewood’s second straight trip to the state tournament under coach Doug Campbell — a Norton basketball alumnus.
“Making it to the state tournament again was very important to us. We feel like we can make a big run this year,” said Edmonds, who also had 10 rebounds and handed out six assists.
Dakota Grizzel led Castlewood on the boards with 10 rebounds. Ben Couch scored nine points.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times and Thomas Walker posed some tough matchups for us,” Campbell said.
Tyler Scott scored 12 points to lead the Pioneers (11-15), and Justin Greer added 10. Thomas Walker played without scorer Cody Bryant, who quit the team prior to the regional tourney.
“I don’t think that made any difference,” said Pioneers first-year coach Adam Hood. “As good as we played against Clintwood the other night, I felt good with the team we had.”