The first quarter was looking like a mirror image of the Dobyns-Bennett game on Monday, but the Blue Devils (7-2, 2-0) were able to overcome a slow start and win 86-71.
During the third quarter, Gate City senior forward Zac Ervin drove in the lane and scored through a triple team to get the 2,000th point of his career.
“It’s a great accomplishment, but — as of right now — it doesn’t mean much. I just want to win the state championship,” Ervin said. “I couldn’t do it without my teammates. They’re phenomenal, and we just want to continue to get wins.”
“Zac has put in a lot of shots and a lot of time in the gym. He’s worked on his body and good things come to those kinds of kids,” Blue Devils head coach Scott Vermillion said. “His dad and his brother have put a lot of time and investment of helping his game. I just get to enjoy having him on my team.”
Ervin had 42 points on the night, while junior guard Bradley Dean had 16.
It was some of the other scorers for the Devils that stepped up on Wednesday as six other players scored with Jacob Hicks and D’Andre Mack netting eight and seven, respectively.
“What we saw last week at the Arby’s people are designing their defense to keep Zac from getting the ball deep. It worked for about five quarters,” Vermillion said. “We finally created some buckets for other guys, and they had the confidence to knock them down. That’s huge and we also got some transition buckets, but I thought that our bigs hit some key shots.”
Union led the game 16-10 after the first quarter and were frustrating the Devils. The Bears coaching staff obviously paid attention during the D-B game and used what they learned to slow down the Devils.
Gate City finally seized a 30-27 lead late in the second quarter and never looked back, scoring 20-plus points in every quarter afterward.
The Bears (2-8, 0-1) did have a balanced offensive attack, led by Noah Garrison with 21 points and Alex Rasnick with 20. Andy Jones had a solid game with 12 coming off a big week at the Arby’s.
The Devils will travel to John Battle on Friday while Union will return home and play host to Abingdon.
Following Mac McClung hitting the milestone last year, Gate City becomes only the fifth school in VHSL history to have two 2,000 point scorers. The others are Altavista, Robert E. Lee-Staunton, Coeburn and Petersburg.
Gate City 51, Union 35
The Lady Bears came into the contest without a blemish on their record, but Gate City was able to pull away late behind 30 points from sophomore point guard Sarah Thompson.
“I think we played well as a team and we made a bunch of good passes and got open looks,” Thompson said. “We hit the cutters, and once we got anyone the ball, they would go up strong to the hoop.”
Emili Brooks had 18 to lead Union.
In a chippy game from the start, it was apparent that Gate City’s Jaden Fullen would have her hands full in the post against Union’s Kara Mullins and Jayda Smith.
However, with a short bench, the Lady Bears ran out of gas down the stretch.
“Any win that you get in the Mountain 7 is big because it’s a battle night in and night out,” Gate City head coach Kelly Houseright said. “Sarah played big tonight. She attacked the rim, and she was all over the place. We go as she goes.”
A key moment was in the third quarter as Fullen was called for an intentional foul. Union’s Jayda Smith went to the line and hit three-of-four free throws to cut the Gate City down to three points, but the Lady Devils were energized by freshman Riley Houseright coming off the bench and playing good minutes.
“In the second half, Riley played great,” Houseright said. “She played a little timid in the first half but came out and played really aggressive.”
After Fullen went out in the fourth with her fifth personal foul, Houseright came in and scored seven big points to help Gate City pull away.