COEBURN - Since the autumn of 1991, only twice has J.J. Kelly girls coach Robin Dotson failed to steer the Lady Indians to the Region D tournament.
Thursday night was not one of those times.
Kalen Collins and Lauren Mullins scored 14 points apiece as Kelly clinched a regional berth in a 61-36 win over Clintwood in Thursday's Lonesome Pine District tournament semifinals at Coeburn High School.
In the night's semifinal opener, cold-shooting Gate City held off scrappy J.I. Burton 38-23, setting up a championship showdown tonight between the Lady Blue Devils (22-2) and the Lady Indians (18-6)
"I'm glad we're going to regions, but this is a pride game. It would be nice to win for pride," said Collins, who contributed seven points to Kelly's 19-6 third-quarter surge that put the nail in Clintwood's coffin.
For Kelly, which opens Region D play against the Black Diamond District runner-up Monday at Castlewood, upholding the program's reputation in the postseason is habitual.
For Dotson, however, business as usual never means the same old, same old.
"I sometimes need to catch myself ... to remember that every group is different. They've not been there before. It's not just old hat to them. It's new every time we go," Dotson said.
"But it does help that we've had players that have been there before and know what it takes to get there."
Collins and Mullins both played like they'd been there. Sarah Saunders, who scored nine points, and Jaydee Brewer, who scored eight and made a variety of good things happen on the floor, played like they wanted to be there. The Lady Indians also got a significant seven points from Kayli Bates.
"We had some glimpses tonight of what we're capable of doing. I hope we're just starting to play our best ball now," said Dotson, who saw all of his starters record at least one assist apiece.
"One thing I like is that we're pretty unselfish. We're looking for an open teammate and we usually find them if somebody is open. We've got five people who can see the floor."
The big, physical Lady Green Wave (19-4) split with Kelly during the regular season. Clintwood trailed only 13-12 headed into the second quarter Thursday, but fell behind for good when the Lady Indians opened the second quarter with a defensively inspired 12-0 surge that made use of scoring from every player on the floor.
"Wise just played great tonight. We did some things after we got behind that hurt us. Foul trouble hurt us bad," said Lady Green Wave coach Keith Dotson.
Kristen Mullins led Clintwood with 14 points. Terra Greear had eight and Whitley Poston had six.
Gate City shot 14-for-36 from the field, some of which was attributable to J.I. Burton's scrappy defensive effort. But there was no hand in anybody's face to account for the 9-for-25 showing at the free throw line.
"We've struggled at the free throw line at times throughout the year. I think it's gotten into some of their heads. But we'll continue to work on it," said Lady Blue Devils coach Hugh Godsey, whose squad led 16-12 at the half.
Haley Odle led Gate City with 17 points, also grabbing five rebounds. Kaitlyn Musick had four rebounds, four assists and three steals. Samantha Horner hauled in four rebounds.
Gate City led 25-17 headed into the final period. Tuesdee Woods scored all seven of her points that quarter as the Lady Blue Devils kept Burton at arm's length.
"I thought maybe the depth factor worked in our favor. And maybe the experience factor. But other than that, they were nose to nose and toe to toe with us all night," Godsey said.
Ashley Hunter scored 10 points for the Lady Raiders (8-13) while Sheniqua Woods added nine.
"I believe we played a good defensive game, but our offense missed a lot of shots," said Lady Raiders coach Mike Goforth.
"I feel like the future's pretty bright. But we have to work in the offseason. I don't think a lot of people expected us to make it this far. I'm very proud of my girls."