NORTON — J.I. Burton’s gymnasium has had a lot of upgrades lately. It came close to needing a new roof after Friday’s mutual basketball season opener between the Raiders and visiting Union.
A strong second-quarter surge held up for the Bears, who picked up a 61-56 non-district win over their former Lonesome Pine District rivals.
The Raiders (0-1) and Union (1-0) have followed separate postseason paths since the VHSL split Group A basketball into divisions. Still, the programs shared the same district identity.
This year, 1A Burton belongs to the Cumberland. The 2A Bears are part of the newly formed Mountain District.
Given the roof-raising ruckus in Norton’s recently refurbished gym, you’d think there was a championship at stake. The basketball-hungry crowd was into it. The players fed off it.
The Bears’ Logan Schoolcraft, a 6-foot-3 post built like a left tackle, caused matchup mayhem for the Raiders. The big man led Union with 18 points, grabbing five rebounds and handing out two assists.
Schoolcraft didn’t play football this year. A lot of the players from both teams did, however, contributing to the flawed, if enthusiastic, level of play.
Union held a plus-15 advantage on the boards, for instance, but turned the ball over 21 times.
Two Raiders players who didn’t don football helmets this fall were obvious standouts Friday night. Forward Alex Keys — who worked on his outside shot during the offseason — led Burton with 20 points, pulling down seven boards. Guard Ervin Beaty fired up 19 points,
Interestingly enough, a couple of Union kids with football legs made convincing contributions. Dez Burney had a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Jay Gavin, a lanky sophomore, grabbed 11 boards.
Logan Mullins added 12 points for Union.
In the girls’ game, Union had four players in double figures and rolled to a 70-28 win over the Lady Raiders.
Summer Begley had 16 points to pace Union (2-0). Kristen Bishop scored 14, Sydney McKinney added 13 and Hannah Dysart chipped in 12.
Jaz Bay scored 10 to pace Burton (0-2), which has seven players but dressed only six Friday night. After getting drilled in the first quarter, the Lady Raiders played the Lady Bears to a draw in the second.
For an expanded version of this article, please see Saturday's print edition or our electronic edition.