In the late 1940s, however, Norton emerged as the powerhouse program, and the Black Raiders reached three consecutive VHSL Group II championship games from 1947-49.
Led by players like Lonnie Quillen, Joe Stallard and Gene Cury, the Black Raiders — dubbed “Norhi” — strung together one of the more impressive stretches of hoops in Wise County history.
Norton also produced a long 65-game winning streak that stretched from Jan.14, 1947, to Feb. 25, 1949 — one that was bookended by losses to Pound.
THE STATE TITLES
After losing a tough battle to Pound in ’47, the Black Raiders returned to their winning ways with a 29-24 victory over East Stone Gap.
Norhi wound up the last team standing that season after taking a 35-30 triumph over Radford for the program’s first state championship.
Coached by Sam Lawson, the Norton quintet went unbeaten again in 1948, capped by a 44-30 walloping of Glen Allen.
The Black Raiders became the first back-to-back state title teams from Wise County since Christopher Gist won three straight from 1940-42.
The pressure was on Lawson’s club going into the 1948-49 season.
SOMETHING TO PLAY FOR
With players like Thurman “Scotty” Roberson, Bobby Ray Hubbard, Coy Kilgore, Robert Cantrell, Jim Robinson and Clyde Wright, Pound had given Norton headaches all season and was arguably the toughest opponent in District 8 — later the Lonesome Pine District — play.
The Wise County tournament was one of the big events on the docket. It didn’t have meaning in VHSL postseason play, but it gave teams bragging rights until the following campaign.
Norton had won back-to-back titles and the Wildcats were starving for some glory of their own.
THE SHINDIG AT APPALACHIA
In the semifinals of the tournament at Appalachia, Norhi sneaked by St. Paul with a two-point win and Pound easily won over Coeburn, putting the teams on a collision course.
Pound jumped out to the early lead in the final and Norton pulled into a tie only once, knotting it at 10 midway through the second quarter.
Lawson’s teams could score and Pound wanted to make every shot count. Wildcats coach O.M. Morris knew his team would have a chance if it stuck to the plan.
However, Norton never again got closer than two, at 17-15 in the opening minutes of the third period.
Robinson finished with 11 points and the Wildcats used solid defense to shock the Black Raiders in a 30-25 win.
Pound clamped down on all the Norton scorers except Quillen, who poured in a game-high 17 points.
HOW THE SEASON ENDED
Norhi and Pound wound up meeting again in the District 8 tournament finals. Along the way, Pound upended Clintwood, which was the last defeat for the Greenwave until 1952 when their 66-game winning streak came to a halt.
The Black Raiders won the district championship and advanced to face Radford in the state championship for the second time in three years. This time the Bobcats came out on the winning end, taking a 51-38 victory over Norton in Blacksburg.
That remains the last time Norton — now J.I. Burton — has reached the state championship game.