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BRISTOL –– Galax went to great lengths to prepare for the team that ended its season in the 2011 state quarterfinals.
It had to wait a little longer than the final buzzer for that preparation to pay off.
Cherish Forney missed a free throw with no time on the clock and the Maroon Tide survived, knocking off defending Group A Division 1 champion J.I. Burton, 46-45, in state quarterfinal play Saturday at Virginia High.
Allison White’s double-double (16 points, 14 rebounds) and Bailey Shumate (12 points) led the way for the Maroon Tide, which joined Galax’s boys team in making its respective final four in Richmond. White scored the 1,000th point of her career in the win.
Galax (21-5) never led by more than 10 points, but took the lead for good 1 minute into the game. Up 44-36 with 1:15 to play, the Tide held off the Raiders’ furious rally in the final minutes.
The Maroon Tide turned the ball over three times in the final 1:01, and Forney capped a 9-2 Burton run with a bucket inside to make it 46-45 as time expired. The senior post player drew a foul, but her free attempt bounced off the right side of the rim.
“It was tough that [Forney] had to miss that free throw, I hate it for her. I hate to see something like that,” Galax coach Yerrick Stoneman said. “She should keep her head up. She’s a great ballplayer and they have a great team. It was such a great game.
“The biggest things for us, we’re senior-led. On the floor there at the end, we had four seniors, and another one out with foul trouble, and most of them have been on the varsity for four years.”
Those seniors, including Shumate, lost to J.I. Burton on the same court a year ago. That day may have helped Galax as much as the years of experience.
The Maroon Tide was better prepared for Burton’s transition game this time around, in particular the quickness of sister guards Iris and Jazz Hill, key starters on last year’s title team.
“We knew what to expect,” Stoneman said. “They beat us back on defense last year [and] were able to get layups. And I was able to see as a coach the mistakes I made.
“The thing is we had a lot more time to work on man defense this year and our defense was absolutely phenomenal tonight. That was the key to the whole ballgame, transition defense. The two [Hill] girls are so fast, so good.”
Iris Hill finished with 13 points. Jazz Hill added 11 for a Burton squad that struggled with its shooting, hitting 27.3percent from the field and 11 of 22 from the free-throw line.
“It all started in the first half,” J.I. Burton coach Melissa Short said. “We were out-rebounded, we missed a lot of easy shots, we missed a lot at the free-throw line, so it doesn’t come down to that one play [at the end.] You have to look on the entire game.”
It’s been a long time, the mid-1980s, since Galax has been to the state semifinals.
“Our seniors have worked and worked,” Stoneman said. “When they were freshmen, they won eight, then it was 10 or 12 wins. They won 14 last year and I couldn’t be prouder of them this year.”
Galax..............10 14 14 8––46
J.I. Burton........5 13 12 15––45
Russell 1 2-2 2, Shumate 5 0-5 12, White 5 6-12 16, Cassell 3 0-0 6, Bryant 0 0-0 0, Lindsey 4 2-2 10. Totals 17 10-21 46.
J.I. Burton (18-10)
Hensley 1 6-9 8, J.Hill 4 3-3 11, I.Hill 5 1-6 13, Fultz 0 0-0 0, Forney 2 0-3 4, Hamilton 2 1-1 7, Bay 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 11-22 45.
Three-point field goals – Galax 2-6 (Shumate 2), J.I. Burton 4-21 (Hamilton 2, I.Hill 2). Team fouls – Galax 15, J.I. Burton 17. Fouled out – none.