The Bulldogs have at least one player who looks like he might be there in a few years.
Devonnte Holland scored 26 points and was a shot-blocking terror on the defensive end for Martinsville, which eliminated Gate City 69-47 in Friday night’s VHSL Region 2A West semifinal game at Floyd County High School.
“He’s good, man. I don’t know if we won’t see him on TV someday. If that kid goes to work, the sky’s the limit,” said Blue Devils coach Scott Vermillion, who apologized for a technical foul he received late in the third period when he got “caught up in the emotions of the game.”
Gate City was trailing 46-30 at the time, so Vermillion getting T’d up really wasn’t a game-changer.
Holland was a game-changer at both ends of the floor. The 6-foot-6 sophomore played in the low post but proved capable of stepping out and putting the ball on the floor facing the bucket. He accounted for the Bulldogs’ lone 3-pointer, nailing it during Martinsville’s 20-5 second-quarter explosion that left the Blue Devils chasing the ’Dogs for the rest of the game.
On defense Holland blocked seven Gate City shot attempts, his long arms altering others and otherwise tangling up passing lanes the Blue Devils usually exploit more effectively. He pulled down 16 rebounds.
“He’s been our best player all year. You can tell that. He played with a little more intensity tonight. He just had a step on them and he has those long arms. He cleans up the back side on our defense,” said Martinsville coach Jeff Adkins, a Bulldogs state championship alumnus who played for Maryland during the early 1980s.
Holland wasn’t the only physical mismatch for Gate City (19-6), which led 13-10 at the end of the first quarter after the first of four 3-pointers John Reed Barnes hit en route to 12 points.
Cameron Turner, a 6-4 senior power forward who scored 18 points, had the strength, sure-handedness and explosive quickness to finish slick interior passes from slashing guards Cameron Bradley and Curtis Pilson.
The Blue Devils did what they could to try to spread out the Bulldogs, but aside from Barnes and another 3 from Tyler Hass, they couldn’t hit the perimeter shots they needed to loosen their opponents’ iron grip on the lane.
Vermillion’s high school playing career ended against then-AA Martinsville in 1993, so he was well aware of what that basketball town typically produces. Friday’s loss demonstrated what will be required of his players in order to remain competitive in the new 2A milieu.
“We really have to go to work and improve our bodies and our athleticism and our strength. And we will,” said Vermillion, who staked his widely respected reputation on giving a strict second chance to senior point guard Dylan Jenkins after off-the-court difficulties.
Jenkins evidently held up his end of Vermillion’s rigorous redemption project, but Friday he felt he let down his team in his final game for Gate City.
“I couldn’t hit anything. I wasn’t feeling my shot at all. I wasn’t aggressive enough,” said Jenkins, who scored all of his 13 points in the second half.
“I love my team and Coach Vermillion is one of the best men I’ve ever known in my life. I’m happy he gave me a chance.”
Jenkins scored six of the Blue Devils’ eight points that narrowed the Bulldogs’ margin to 12 on Michael Collier’s baseline jumper with 6:12 remaining in the game. It was a valiant, but ultimately doomed, effort.
The Bulldogs (19-5) advanced to Saturday's championship game against Dan River (23-0), which beat Virginia High 68-42 in Friday’s other semifinal. The final was moved to Magna Vista for a 7 p.m. tipoff.
In Friday’s nightcap, the ultra-athletic Edmunds brothers were a triple threat and the Wildcats ended the Bearcats’ season in impressive fashion.
Tremaine Edmunds led Dan River with 15 points. Terrell Edmunds, 2 inches shorter at 6-3, added 15 points and Tyleik Edmunds, the tallest of the trio at 6-7, added 12 points.
Noah Walker scored 10 for Virginia High (20-7). Touré Fudge added nine.