The Gate City boys closed a chapter of Rye Cove basketball history Wednesday night, absorbing 29 points from War Eagle shooting guard Adam Hood en route to a 66-50 victory.
In the other semifinal, J.I. Burton post Adam Middleton's two clutch free throws with 9.7 seconds left lifted the Raiders to a 49-48 win over Honaker.
Wednesday's showdown with Gate City was Rye Cove's first and last Region D tournament appearance under coach Reagan Mullins. After the game, the Eagle skipper announced he was stepping down from coaching in order to spend more time with his family.
"For a loss, that's about the best closure game I've had in six years," said Mullins, who is Rye Cove's winningest boys basketball coach since Dexter Egan.
"You don't ever like to lose. But I felt like we left every bit out there on the floor. The kids just played their tails off."
That was especially true of Mullins' senior star.
"I always wanted to play Gate City and I got my shot. That's all I can ask for," said Hood, who grabbed seven rebounds, blocked two shots and nabbed a couple of steals.
Ever the aggressive defenders, Gate City (20-5) rotated at least five different players on Rye Cove's 2,000-point scorer. Hood's 14 first-half points flouted their efforts. But his assist production was held to one dish on the night.
"We didn't do what we said we were going to do. Our kids lost him a few times," said Gate City coach Scotty Vermillion, whose squad advances to face Twin Valley in Friday's 6:30 p.m. semifinal game.
"But (Hood) hit some tough shots," Vermillion said. "We didn't defend him as well as we could have, but he helped that. The kid can play."
Rye Cove (16-10) held the lead three times during the first half while playing a fierce defensive ballgame in its own right.
The Blue Devils just had too many weapons. Jamie Hackney scored 20 points, grabbing seven rebounds and doling out five assists along the way. Cody Salyer got loose on the perimeter several key times, hitting five 3-pointers on his way to 15 points. He also grabbed five boards.
Gate City, which led 26-21 at the half, yielded the lead to the Eagles one last time on Anthony Million's stickback with 3:15 left in the third quarter. Million finished with 10 points.
The Blue Devils went ahead for good. 33-32, on a three-point play by Steven Williams with 2:03 left in the third.
Gate City was up 48-38 by Hackney's two free throws at 6:46 in the fourth. Rye Cove made its last comeback bid 43 seconds later when Hood closed it to 48-43 on his second 3-pointer of the night.
A Matthew Bays inside bucket off Tihlee Anderson's assist helped stem some of that momentum. A couple more 3s from Salyer - and Gate City's superior depth - kept it out of the Eagles' reach for good.
Anderson, who was shadowed by Hood all night, finished with 12 points and six assists.
"Lord have mercy, he's all over the place. He's like a bumblebee, or something," said the admiring Hood, who bore no grudges against Gate City for throwing all the pressure at him on the other end.
"They had a different one on me about every time I went down the court," Hood added. "But that's OK. I understand. I would've done the same thing."
In the nightcap, the 6-foot-7 Middleton had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Raiders. Burton missed on three consecutive 1-and-1 opportunities in the final minute before the big man sank both his double-bonus free throws.
Honaker got a putback from Justin Hall for the final margin with two seconds left, but had no timeouts remaining.
"It was anybody's game at the end. Fortunately, we were ahead at the buzzer," said Norton coach Stan Wilson, whose squad faces Castlewood in Friday's semifinals.
Ethan Stewart added 10 points while grabbing nine boards for Burton (16-10) while Jaycob Coleman contributed 11 points, six assists and three steals.
Brett Carter scored 18 to pace Honaker (10-15) while Logan Ball added 11 and Michael Tiller scored nine.