But South came up with some timely plays during a key three-minute span early in the fourth quarter and escaped with a 59-51 victory.
“Any time you can come here and play well and get a win, it’s something to be proud of,” South coach Mark Pendleton said. “They’ve got great tradition here and Scotty (Vermillion) does a great job. I’m really proud of the way our kids played.”
Riding a blend of emotion and gritty play, the Blue Devils led 38-36 at the beginning of the fourth frame before South came alive.
Bailee Dick hit a driving layup and Andrew Pickwell followed with a 3-pointer from the right corner to give the Rebels a five- point burst.
After Gate City tied the game at 41, J.C. Garvin came up with an old-fashioned three-point play that put South up for good.
The Rebels pushed the lead to 50-43 and Gate City never recovered.
“It’s almost like we did things you just can’t do in about a three-minute spurt there,” Vermillion, Gate City’s coach, said. “If you took those 10 possessions, they converted on probably six of those possessions and we converted on one of them. That ended up being the game.”
Garvin came off the bench to lead the Rebels with 15 points. Pendleton said that without the 6-foot-3 sophomore post, the outcome could have been far different.
“He made some big buckets for us and defensively he was great for us in the second half,” Pendleton said.
Paul Arnold powered Gate City with a game-high 16 points, but both teams had a bevy of key contributors. Pickwell and Dick scored nine points each for South (14-11) while Jordan Potts and Wesley Hughes added eight apiece for Gate City (10-8).
With district tournaments starting on both sides of the border this week, Vermillion is hoping the hard-fought game will help sharpen his team.
Pendleton, meanwhile, hopes his squad learned something by coming from behind to pick up a win in a tough environment.
“It showed great leadership on behalf of our guys and particularly those seniors,” he said. “In the past few games, if we had got down, we wouldn’t have battled back.”
The Lady Rebels made it a clean sweep thanks to a 65-41 victory over the Lady Blue Devils.
South broke open the game with a 22-4 run in the first half thanks in part to a torrid shooting effort from the perimeter.
Abbey Fletcher and Makensey Campbell finished with 15 points each to lead the Lady Rebels (9-11). Tyria Hutchins added 13.
Taylor Evans scored 11 to pace Gate City (7-12).
Lady Rebels coach Josh Tate hopes his team’s recent momentum carries over into Monday night’s District 1-AAA tournament game against Sullivan Central.
“You want to go into the district tournament a little warm and we’ve won four out of the last five,” Tate said. “Hopefully we’re going into Monday night with a little bit of heat.”