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Potts regains touch, leads Devils to win over Harlan

John Moorehouse • Feb 7, 2009 at 12:00 AM

GATE CITY — Every shooter in basketball endures a slump at some point. It’s inevitable.

How a player responds to such a stretch can be the determining factor in whether he’s seen as a proven shooter — or merely a streaky one.

Gate City sophomore Jordan Potts snapped out of his recent doldrums Saturday night, tallying 27 points in three quarters as the Blue Devils won a 79-63 decision over Harlan County, Ky.

Potts hit nine shots from the floor, and his last five makes all came from 3-point range — including four trifectas in the third period.

“The past three games, I’d been in a slump,” Potts said. “I let it get in my head sometimes. I’m starting to learn to play the next play.”

Foul trouble sent Potts to the bench late in the third period and he later picked up his fifth foul.

He wasn’t alone; three Harlan County players also fouled out in a whistle-filled contest. The teams were whistled for 58 combined infractions, with 19 fouls during the third period.

“I tell you what, we played one last year with 70-some,” Gate City coach Scott Vermillion said.

After a first quarter that included four lead changes and six ties, Gate City pulled ahead for good during the second period. The Blue Devils went on a 14-0 run that bridged the quarter break, tying it on Wesley Hughes’ free throws with 30 ticks left in the opening stanza, and scoring 10 unanswered to open the next frame.

Gate City capped the run with a spectacular sequence. Austin Arwood swatted two consecutive Harlan County shots, and Tihlee Anderson corralled the carom of the second rejection, going coast to coast for a layup.

The Devils took advantage of the Black Bears’ foul trouble. Harlan County’s starters played the entire first quarter, and Gate City started to push it to the basket on every possession. By halftime, three Harlan starters had three fouls apiece, but it was still a 35-29 game.

Potts broke open the contest with his 3-point shooting display. It wasn’t the first time he has made outside shots in bunches; he won the 3-point shooting contest at this season’s Arby’s Classic.

Anderson finished with 20 points. Trevor Smith added 13, highlighted by a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer.

Though his statistical contribution was modest — a handful of rebounds with two booming blocks — 6-foot-8 senior Josh Johnson gave the Blue Devils a boost. Out all season while recovering from a knee injury, Johnson made his 2008-09 debut Friday night at Virginia High.

“One- to two-minute spurts is about all he can go for the next week or so,” Vermillion said. “He can change the game a little bit.”

Tyrek Simmons paced the Bears (12-11), scoring 19 points.

Gate City bounced back nicely from Friday’s defeat at Virginia High, the Blue Devils’ first loss in Clinch Mountain District play.

“I’ll be honest, we were outcoached (Friday) night. I didn’t have our team prepared and it showed,” Vermillion said. “We were hung up on that a little bit. We’re still hung up on it some.

“We’re better than we played last night.”

Gate City, which is 5-1 in the district, goes to Lebanon (15-3, 4-2) on Wednesday. The Devils can clinch the district title with a victory.

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