GATE CITY - A homecoming queen and a couple of district champions got crowned at Gate City on Friday night.
Heather and Haley Odle dodged the sports front cover jinx as the twins led the Lady Blue Devils to a 58-46 win over J.J. Kelly that clinched the Lonesome Pine District regular-season championship.
The Gate City boys followed suit with a 72-46 win over the Indians that put the Blue Devils over the top in the LPD regular-season race.
The queen? That was Kaci Shelton, a four-year veteran of Gate City's volleyball dynasty.
In Friday's varsity opener, the Lady Indians (13-5, 8-3) did their utmost to prevent the Lady Blue Devils from attaining their objective. Gate City committed six turnovers in its first eight possessions as Kelly climbed to a 9-0 lead by Kayli Bates' putback with 2:53 left in the period.
"We were in a good frame of mind and playing hard," said Kelly coach Robin Dotson.
A couple of 3-pointers from Samantha Horner and Heather Odle kept things from getting too far out of hand for the defending state champion Lady Blue Devils (18-2, 12-0).
"We weren't as patient as we needed to be early with the basketball. Hopefully we'll learn from that," said Gate City coach Hugh Godsey, whose squad trailed 13-7 headed into the second quarter. "We're probably lucky to dig ourselves that big a hole and get out of it as quick as we did."
Heather Odle - who, along with her sister, was the subject of a Times-News feature story earlier in the week - hit another 3-pointer at 6:57 in the second quarter to cut it to 15-10. Haley then penetrated to draw fouls on the next two possession, going 4-for-4 at the line to cut Kelly's lead to one.
Gate City got its first go-ahead of the game, 16-15, on Tuesdee Woods' stickback at 5:35. Bates tied it up 16-16 with her free throw six seconds later. Haley Odle got the ball inside to Ashton Bishop to put the Lady Blue Devils ahead for good, 18-16.
Kelly committed four turnovers as the home team got buckets inside and outside the arc from Heather Odle, a gutsy lane-driver from Leshia Lane and a couple more free throws from Haley for the 11-point margin.
Gate City went into intermission leading 31-21 and never seriously relinquished command.
"I guess we just weren't ready to play. But coach chewed us out a little bit and we recuperated," said Heather Odle, who had 17 points and had two assists.
Haley had 19 points and grabbed four boards and two steals. Woods grabbed seven rebounds, two steals and two assists. Bishop had five rebounds and two assists.
Kalen Collins led Kelly with 14 points and Lauren Mullins added 11. Sarah Saunders scored seven.
"In the second quarter, we made some mistakes and that sort of snowballed on us," said Dotson, who has Group A Final Four credentials of his own. "We seem to bring out the best in them. They played well both of the times we've played them."
Friday's win marked the third consecutive LPD regular-season championship for the Gate City girls. Their male counterparts have never failed to win an LPD basketball championship since joining the league five years ago.
Both squads are now guaranteed Region D tournament berths.
The Blue Devils (15-4, 12-0) got 22 points from Jamie Hackney and another 19 from Tihlee Anderson as they jumped on the Indians early. Cody Salyer hit a trio of 3s on his way to 22 points.
"Their three players we talked about so much had 53 points. That was who we were aiming at defensively. We usually do a pretty good job defensively. So they're tough," said Kelly coach T.J. McAmis, whose squad trailed 38-17 at the half but battled the margin down to 13 points early in the third quarter.
Hackney said he was surprised by the Indians' second-half spurt.
"We're usually the team that comes out in the second half and runs the game up," Hackney noted. "But they came out with some fire and intensity and got some easy baskets."
Nick Collette added eight points for Gate City.
"We're starting to be a family, I think. We're just getting used to playing with each other," Anderson said.
Matt Dotson scored 12 points to pace the Indians (7-13, 5-6) while Devan Sproles added 11. Devin Miller and Matt Hopkins scored eight apiece.