BRISTOL, Va. — Virginia High managed to slow down the Gate City down a little Friday night. But that’s not quite the same thing as stopping them.
A “relentless” effort by the Blue Devils carried them to a 56-42 road win over the Bearcats. The two teams renewed an old district basketball rivalry in their new home — the Clinch Mountain District.
“The word you use to describe them is ‘relentless.’ They’re relentless with their defensive pressure and their physicality ... the way they play the game,” Virginia High coach Doug Mitchell said.
The Blue Devils shot poorly from the perimeter and their halfcourt defense wasn’t nearly as effective early as coach Scott Vermillion would have liked. They trailed 16-10 headed into the second quarter.
But Gate City (8-5, 2-0) has a way of wearing people down. Over the long haul, it did just that.
“We felt like we could get into their bench up and down the floor,” Vermillion said. “We wanted to force a faster game than we actually got. They’re very good at slowing you down and executing,”
Tihlee Anderson scored 23 points for the Blue Devils, slashing and writhing in the paint for seven buckets. The price for contesting those moves: a 9-for-12 showing at the free throw line.
“He’s hard to take a charge on. He’ll slide right by you,” Vermillion said.
Jamie Hackney, whose playing status was questionable earlier in the week after turning an ankle in practice Monday, scored 20 points for the Blue Devils.
“If the game was yesterday, I don’t think I would’ve played. But I woke up this morning and felt pretty good,” Hackney said. “We had a little bit of trouble finding our rhythm with a new team. That was one of the best- run offenses we’ve played this year.”
Virginia High’s grip on the tempo started slipping in the opening minutes of the second quarter. After Hackney and Anderson went to the free throw line to narrow the gap to three points, Hackney scored in transition to bring it to one, then Tyler Parks hit another layup on the break to put Gate City up 17-16.
After three more lead shifts, Hackney hit a pair of free throws with 4:02 left in the half to put the Blue Devils ahead for good, 21-20.
By midway through the third period, Gate City led 39-23 but the Bearcats got to the free throw line and beat the margin down to 10 before the final stanza. They never got closer than nine after that.
“I think the game turned around when we stopped fouling in the fourth,” Vermillion said. “We got our hands off and kind of got a step away from them. We forced them to foul us by attacking.”
Josh Moore scored 15 to pace the Bearcats (7-5, 2-1) while post Kasey Marion added nine points and three assists.
In the girls’ game, Savannah Pippin scored 15 points as the Lady Bearcats rolled to a 52-22 win over the Lady Blue Devils.
Ashley Grimm added 12 points for Virginia High (11-1, 3-0), which led 31-7 at the half.
“The defense was pretty much where we wanted to be in the first half,” said Lady Bearcats coach Barry Reed, whose team covets — and will probably get — the top seed to the Group A, Division 2 regionals.
Megan Starnes scored six points to lead the Lady Blue Devils (2-13, 1-2).
“They’re pretty good. When you have 31 turnovers against a team like that, they look even better,” Gate City coach Kelly Houseright said. “At halftime I told them they had nothing to lose. We came out and started putting some pressure on the ball and doing some things to make them turn it over, but we could never connect on offense.”