GATE CITY — “Uno! Dos! Tres!”
That’s what the rowdies in the Gate City student section chanted every time Cody Salyer nailed a 3-pointer in what snowballed into a 76-36 Clinch Mountain District rout of visiting John Battle.
Believe it or not, the Gate City girls set the tone earlier with a little perimeter shooting spree of their own.
Samantha Horner hit three unanswered trifectas in a row to open the fourth quarter, initiating a run that effectively sealed the Lady Blue Devils’ 45-33 district win over the Lady Trojans.
“Samantha finally came in the fourth quarter and gave us a little bit of momentum. Those shots were huge,” said Gate City girls coach Kelly Houseright.
The Lady Blue Devils, who’d trailed 19-16 at intermission, fought back early in the third with buckets from Ashley Frasier and Tessa Burton, finally going up 22-21 on Rachel Horner’s baseline bucket with 5:10 left in the period. A stickback by Amelia Bush made it 24-21 with 3:28 left in the quarter.
A Lauren Blankenship free throw trimmed that margin by a point before action shifted into the fourth quarter. Then it was bombs away for Horner, who had the Lady Blue Devils up 33-24 by her third trey at 6:16. Megan Starnes came close to adding another, but drifted across the line and was accorded a 2-pointer for the 35-25 lead with 5:21 remaining to play.
“We give them the green light to shoot when they’re open. They’ve just got to be confident in their shot,” Houseright said. “They feed off what (Horner) does. Once you start getting a little momentum, then everybody starts playing a little harder and starts doing what they need to do.”
A frantic Gate City defensive effort and an 8-for-14 showing at the free throw line over the final two minutes preserved the Lady Blue Devils’ regular season sweep of the Lady Trojans (4-11, 1-4).
Horner finished with 13 points while Burton added 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds for Gate City (3-14, 2-2) Bush grabbed 11 rebounds — her eight offensive boards being one more than John Battle’s team total offensive rebounding.
“We play pretty good defense. But we’ve not been able to put it in the hole,” said Houseright. “If we start knocking down shots like we did tonight, we can compete with anybody.”
Ashley Bryant led Battle with 11 points while Brittni Altmann added nine.
In the boys game, Salyer hit four of his six total 3-pointers during the opening 4:30 of the first quarter.
“I was feeling it in the first quarter. I shot until I missed, I guess,” said Salyer, who led Gate City with 20 points.
The Blue Devils hit 11 shots outside the arc, including a couple by freshman Jordan Potts, who gave his team the 28-11 lead headed into the second quarter with a 3 just before the horn.
“They were clean. They weren’t contested. We’ll shoot them when that happens. And usually at home we shoot a little better,” said Gate City coach Scott Vermillion.
“(Salyer) has been shooting the ball well in practice for about three weeks now. I mean real well. He’ll go through a practice and not miss.”
Vermillion was particularly pleased by some inside-out kicks by posts Matthew Bays and Josh Johnson that yielded 3-pointers.
It wasn’t all outside stuff. Gate City’s signature defensive onslaught yielded a bonanza of transition buckets. Jamie Hackney and Tihlee Anderson found creative ways to take it to the bucket in the halfcourt game.
Anderson finished with 17 points for Gate City (11-5, 4-0) while Hackney scored 13.
Michael Johnson scored 12 points to lead the Trojans (4-11, 0-5). Talented guard Joe Cadle — who averages 16 points per game — was confined to seven.
“They’re up in you. They’re physical. They play tough defense,” said Battle coach Michael Posey. “We didn’t execute our offense or do the things we needed to win. When you do that, things like this happen.”