For the second game in a row, Vermillion’s Blue Devils showed solid defense and had a perfect night at the free-throw line — and this time the effort helped send them on to the state championship game.
Gate City (27-2) took a 70-59 win over Graham in the VHSL Class 2 semifinals Tuesday night to earn a date with Robert E. Lee-Staunton at Virginia Commonwealth’s Siegel Center in Richmond on Friday at 8 p.m.
The victory, which avenged a loss to the G-Men in the Region 2D championship game, was the fifth state semifinal win in Gate City boys basketball history. The Blue Devils have yet to win a state championship.
WE’RE TALKING DEFENSE
Gate City got its usually strong shooting game from senior standout Mac McClung. The Georgetown signee finished with 42 points, leaving him just 17 shy of setting the VHSL record for most points scored in a career.
Zac Ervin finished with 12 points and seven rebounds for the Blue Devils, and Bradley Dean added 10 points.
But the thing that stood out for Vermillion was the way his team played defense.
“I think this game and the Radford game were probably our best games defensively,” the coach said, referring to the Blue Devils’ state quarterfinal win over the previously undefeated Bobcats. “These guys listen. At this time of year, we’re not practicing too much. We’re watching a lot of film and going over a lot of things. These guys have been listening and they’ve made some adjustments.
“They don’t even realize it, but they’ve been making some adjustments. That was the difference in the game tonight.”
Gate City took advantage of 12 first-half turnovers by Graham (24-3) to build a 33-21 halftime lead. The Blue Devils scored 23 points off G-Men turnovers.
“We didn’t rebound and we turned the ball over way too much,” said Graham’s Glyn Carlock Jr., who coached his last game at the G-Men’s helm.
Carlock announced earlier this season that he had accepted a sales professional position for a sporting goods company in Asheville, N.C.
Graham outrebounded Gate City, but the Blue Devils had eight offensive rebounds and scored eight second-chance points — all in the first half.
“We just let them get too far ahead in the first half,” Carlock said.
Gate City’s solid defensive play led to the Blue Devils’ favored transition game as well as to 19 free- throw attempts.
Led by McClung’s 9-for-9 shooting at the foul line, Gate City hit all of its attempts from the line and finished 19-for-19.
“We practice shooting a lot of free throws,” McClung said. “Coach makes sure we do a good job with free throws.”
MEASURE OF REVENGE
The loss to the G-Men in the regional final was one of only two for the Blue Devils thus far this season and marked Gate City’s only defeat by a Virginia team this year.
“We came out soft the first time we played them,” McClung noted. “You know, with the competitor in us, we definitely wanted to get the win.”
One that also secured a trip to the state title game up the road.
“We wanted to get to Richmond and we want to win at Richmond,” McClung said.