By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
SALEM, Va. —
Oh, so close.
For the Bland County Bears the Virginia Group A, Division 1 semifinals were within reach until a shot from 17 feet away by J.I. Burton’s Alex Keys rolled around the rim and went through the net at the buzzer, breaking a 46-all tie and sending the Raiders to Richmond for the Final Four on Thursday.
Second earlier the Bears’ John Miller scored a basket in the paint on a pass from Asher Dillow to pull Bland County even.
The Bears pressured the ball as the Raiders moved it up court and were playing tight defense on Keys when he pulled up and fired the shot from just inside the three point arc, just to the right of the top of the key.
J.I. Burton players rushed the court in celebration, while the Bland County team watched in disbelief, their dream of a state title run cut short.
“It is extremely tough for these seniors in particular,” said Bland County head coach Rich Hankins.
“This is a culmination of probably six years of their lives that came down to the last 10 seconds and that kid (Keys) hit a tough shot to send them into the Final Four. I congratulate J.I. Burton. They’ve come on here at the end of the season and played exceptionally well and my hat’s off to them.”
The Bears, despite going down 1-0, controlled the early part of the game. Darryl Clark tied the game at five on a three and Bland County was rolling. Two treys by Dillow helped stake BC to a 14-9 advantage at the end of one quarter.
Offense was at a premium in the second period as neither team proved to be efficient in putting points on the board. The Bears did extend their lead to nine on a Dillow three from the top of the key to make it 18-9.
Slowly J.I. Burton fought back. A three by Austin Johnson with 1:10 to play in the half cut the Bland County lead to three points, but the Bears scored the final six points of the half, the last three coming on Dillow’s trey with two seconds on the clock to give the Bears a 26-17 halftime advantage.
Bland County opened the third quarter getting two baskets from Miller to push its lead to 11, but again the Raiders fought back and when Ervin Beaty dropped in two free throws the Bears’ lead was only five.
Kevin Van Ness’ putback with four ticks on the third quarter clock made it a three-point game, 34-31 in favor of Bland County and that is where it stood as the teams headed into the final eight minutes.
McKenzie Blair’s putback half a minute into the fourth made it a one-point game and Beaty’s two charity tosses with 5:09 left tied the game at 37. Burton took its first lead since 1-0 when Van Ness dropped in one-of-two free throws with 4:46 to play.
Back-and-forth the lead would go before Chase Hankins tied the game at 40 with 2:57 to go in the contest. Burton retook the lead only to see Jonathan Goins knot the game at 42.
The Bears suffered a blow when Hankins fouled out with 1:16 left. Blair made one of two free throws to put J.I. Burton ahead by one.
With the ball, looking to take the lead, Bland County had the ball stolen by Riley Maggard with 35 seconds to play. Keys was fouled with 23.5 left and made one-of-two foul shots to put the Raiders ahead by one.
Miller then tied the game with 10.9, setting the stage for Burton’s final possession and Keys’ game-winning shot.
Dillow led Bland County with a game-high 20 points. He added two assists and a steal. Hankins had a team-high eight rebounds and Miller pulled down seven boards. Clark had four assists.
Three players from J.I. Burton scored in double figures. Blair led the way with 12 points and a game-high 17 rebounds and three blocks. Keys had 11 points and Beaty 10.
Bland County shot 32 percent from the field on 18-57 shots and was only 1-of-2 from the free throw line in the contest. J.I. Burton shot 44 percent from the field and was 9-of-22 from the charity stripe.
“We forced a number of bad shots throughout the game and we just never could get our two big kids involved,” Coach Hankins said.
“It seems like at times we had the wrong people shooting the basketball, but at the same time they were taking good shots. When our three guards don’t shoot the basketball well, or can’t get shots off, we’re going to struggle.”
Burton won the rebounding battle 39-28.
Bland County finished the season 12-10. J.I. Burton moved to 11-12 and plays in the semifinals, Thursday in Richmond at 1 p.m.
— Contact Bob Redd at
At Salem Civic Center
JOHN I. BURTON (11-12)
Alex Keys 5 1-6 11, Ervin Beaty 3 4-8 10, Kevin Van Ness 1 1-2 3, Riley Maggard 3 1-2 7, McKenzie Blair 5 2-4 12, Austin Johnson 1 0-0 3, Totals 18 9-22 46.
BLAND COUNTY (12-10)
Asher Dillow 8 0-0 20, Jonathan Goins 2 0-0 4, Darryl Clark 2 0-0 5, Chase Hankins 1 1-2 3, John Miller 3 0-0 6, Jonah Miller 0 0-0 0, Tyler White 2 0-0 6, Totals 18 1-2 44.
J.I. Burton………9 8 14 15 — 46
Bland County....14 12 8 10 — 44
3-point baskets: JIB - 1 (Johnson); BC - 7 (Dillow 4, Clark , White 2).
Fouled out: BC - Hankins. Technical Fouls - None.