NORTON — Thomas Walker separated itself from J.I. Burton both in the Cumberland District girls basketball standings and on the scoreboard Tuesday.
The Lady Pioneers (6-0, 4-0) moved two games ahead of the Lady Raiders (5-2, 3-2) in the loss column courtesy of a 51-22 district victory at Stan Wilson Gymnasium.
Thomas Walker wasted no time taking control, using a strong defensive effort and its substantial height advantage to command the rebounding battle.
“We’re hanging our hats on defense this year,” Thomas Walker coach Jonathan Lovelace said.
That defense forced 10 Burton turnovers in the first half, helping the Lady Pioneers build a 28-5 advantage before the halftime intermission.
Burton struggled to shoot against the Lady Pioneers, particularly in the first two quarters. The Lady Raiders went into the locker room at halftime having not made a single field goal. Their five first-half points came from the free-throw line.
“They’re tall. They’re very tall,” first-year Burton coach Terry Sturgill said. “It’s hard to get a pass over them. It’s hard to get a shot over them because they’re so tall.
“I think in the second half we kind of settled in and we were able to move the ball a little better.”
Thomas Walker switched from a collapsing zone defense to man-to-man in the second half, which allowed Burton to find more open shot opportunities. The Lady Raiders took advantage by outscoring the Lady Pioneers 11-6 in the period to cut the lead to 34-16.
“We came out in the third quarter and got a little lazy,” Lovelace noted. “We’re still working on our man-to-man and that’s why we went man-to-man in that third quarter, trying to work on it. We’ve still got some work to do there.”
Thomas Walker regained control in the final period, closing out the game on a 17-6 run.
Junior Lakin Burke, who led the Lady Pioneers’ attack with 15 points and eight rebounds, said her team’s rebounding and defensive play help power the offense.
“We drive off of our defense and the defense really helps us push up the floor,” Burke said.
Shelbie Fannon finished with 11 points for Thomas Walker. Talyn Dibrell and Patricia Bigge each had seven rebounds.
The Lady Pioneers outrebounded Burton 35-19.
Abby Phipps led the Lady Raiders with eight points.