J.J. Kelly, Gate City girls advance to Region D semifinals

John Moorehouse • Feb 20, 2007 at 11:42 AM

CASTLEWOOD - Gate City and J.J. Kelly faced nearly identical situations Tuesday night.

Both were playing in the first round of the Region D girls basketball tournament after three days' rest against teams that won their district tourney titles just 24 hours prior. Even the opponents were similar - young teams with little to no depth.

The scenarios were similar, as were the outcomes, but the road to get there could not have been more different.

Gate City throttled homestanding Castlewood 61-33, while J.J. Kelly struggled past Council 47-42.

Gate City will face Honaker in Thursday's semifinals, while Kelly meets Rye Cove. The winners automatically earn Group A quarterfinal spots.

As the defending VHSL Group A state champion, Gate City (23-3) has been here before. The Lady Blue Devils looked a little more human, however, after losing to Kelly in the Lonesome Pine District tourney finals.

"It makes you kind of nervous, knowing every game could be your last, especially as a senior," Gate City's Haley Odle said. "We knew we had to come out to a real strong start and show everybody what we're made of.

"We put it to them pretty good."

Odle scored 10 of her game-high 20 points during the first period, in which Gate City mounted a 12-0 run to take a 16-5 lead at the quarter break. Gate City led 33-17 at the half and stayed in control by double digits for the remainder.

Ashton Bishop recorded a double-double for Gate City, tallying 13 points and 10 rebounds. Overall Gate City dominated the boards by a 32-19 margin.

While Gate City coach Hugh Godsey said he felt his team allowed a few too many open looks, forcing 12 first-half turnovers from Castlewood compensated for it.

"We hadn't had to face pressure like that in a while," said Castlewood coach Barry Ruff, whose team survived an emotional win over Thomas Walker in the Cumberland District tournament finals just one day before to earn a regional berth.

Kayla Gordon's 12 points led Castlewood (16-8), which has no juniors or seniors on its roster.

Ruff didn't hesitate to predict the fate of the opposing collection of Blue Devils: "My opinion is they're going to go a long way again."

In the big picture, Friday's LPD loss to Kelly might end up being a reason why.

"You never really want to lose but sometimes it might send the right message," Godsey said. "We were not playing real well for a while and got by with it."

Like Castlewood, Council has no juniors or seniors, and was coming off a win in Monday's Black Diamond tournament finals. Unlike Castlewood, the Lady Cobras took their LPD opponent down to the wire.

A third-chance stickback by Stephanie Cornett drew the Lady Cobras within one point, 43-42s with less than a minute to go, but Kelly answered on a big bucket by Lauren Mullins with 48 ticks left. She took a nice bounce-pass assist from Kayli Bates on the break.

"That was a big play in the game," Kelly coach Robin Dotson said. "Council's a pretty young crew. But they didn't back down."

Bates, Samantha Brummette and Sarah Saunders each scored nine to pace the Lady Indians (20-6), who also got eight apiece from Mullins and Kalen Collins. All five start.

The balance was consistent with what Kelly's done all year, but the Lady Indians had several chances to break open the game, only to see the Lady Cobras crawl back in striking distance.

"We seemed to have an emotional letdown from the other night," Dotson said. "It wasn't that we're not taking them seriously."

Cornett scored 12 and Haley Arrington had 11 for Council (17-7), which fielded just seven players.

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