CASTLEWOOD - The Gate City girls basketball team cooked up a recipe for success Saturday night in the Region D championship at Castlewood High School.
Using generous portions of patience on offense, a smothering defense and a bowlful of heart, the defending VHSL Group A state champions overwhelmed J.J. Kelly 49-36 to defend their Region D crown.
"We didn't take care of the ball when we played them in the Lonesome Pine District finals,'' said Lady Blue Devils coach Hugh Godsey. "Tonight we did a much better job and I thought our defense bothered Kelly all night.''
Region C runner-up Radford will travel to take on Gate City (25-3) on Friday in the state quarterfinals. Kelly (21-7) must go to Christiansburg to face undefeated Floyd County the same night. Both games are set for 7 p.m.
Gate City got the opening tip and immediately showed its hand: a patterned, motion offense with constant ball movement and players working off screens.
Lady Blue Devils senior Haley Odle flashed through the lane uncovered several times and made the Lady Indians pay dearly. Odle scored eight first-quarter points on smooth jumpers in the paint.
Gate City's defense was relentless and withering. Forcing seven turnovers in the first quarter alone, the Lady Devils had Kelly completely out of sync.
The Lady Indians' Sarah Saunders hit a basket with 3:16 to go in the first quarter to narrow Gate City's lead to 8-7. Before Kelly made another bucket, however, almost 11 minutes had passed.
Kelly hit two free throws during that scoring drought before Kalen Collins hit a basket with 20 seconds to go in the half.
Gate City forced 14 first-half turnovers, helping the Lady Devils go into the locker room with a comfortable 25-11 lead.
"Holding them to just 11 points in the half really had us pumped up,'' said Lady Devils forward Tuesdee Woods. "We said all year that defense would carry us.''
Kelly coach Robin Dotson agreed.
"The difference was Gate City's pressure,'' Dotson said. "They took us out of our element. It wasn't anything we didn't expect, they just seemed more energized tonight.''
The Lady Devils made sure there was no thought of a comeback by scoring on two quick turnovers to open the third quarter. Less than a minute into the half, Gate City was on top 29-11 and looking for more.
Two minutes later the lead was 34-12 and with 1:57 to go in the third quarter Gate City was having a devilish time, building an insurmountable 38-15 advantage.
Kelly made a mini-run to open the fourth by scoring six unanswered points, but Gate City went on a 5-0 run to lift the lead back to 43-25.
From there the Lady Devils went to the spread offense and led by 20 points when Godsey cleared his bench.
"The credit goes to our kids,'' he said. "They worked so hard on defense tonight, especially attention off the ball.''
Odle finished with 14 points while Ashton Bishop had 12 and seven rebounds. Woods added another 11 points for the Lady Devils.
"Our patience on offense was a big key,'' Odle said. "We didn't try to force things, just use ball reversal to open things up.
"(Lauren) Mullins and Collins lit us up last game so we fronted them defensively and that really worked out for us,'' she added.
Mullins and Collins combined for only 11 points. Saunders led Kelly with 13 points, scoring 10 in the fourth quarter.