BIG STONE GAP — Whatever the new decade holds for the Gate City boys basketball program, the Blue Devils have to be happy with the way it began.
Paul Arnold scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds as the Blue Devils ambushed hitherto- unbeaten Powell Valley 55-49 in a non-district road game Saturday night.
The Blue Devils (2-5) were fresh off a bracing — and at times, bruising — run through the Arby’s Classic.
“We needed a win to get this monkey off our backs,” said Gate City coach Scott Vermillion. “We’ve played some good teams. Dobyns-Bennett, Pulaski County, Cherokee. We do it for a reason.”
Arnold, a 6-foot-3 junior forward who transferred to Gate City this year from Austin, Texas, scored 10 of his points in the first half. He is just now adapting to Gate City’s style of motion offense and stifling defense.
“We run our butts off. We run 24-7 . We run the whole game and don’t slow down for anything,” Arnold said.
“It isn’t what I was used to. But we’ve been working hard in practice and the guys have been helping me out. They’re a great team and great teammates. They’ve helped me kind of merge into the system,” he said.
Arnold was also a significant defensive presence. Along with Austin Arwood, he helped diminish Powell Valley’s marked size advantage in the post.
Pressure up top was equally important. Vermillion credited his guards — Kelsey Berry in particular — with disrupting efforts to get the ball inside.
“If we’d allowed them to see their post guys, we’d have been hurting. They’ve got some dang good post players,” said Vermillion, who lost veteran forward Trevor Smith to a freak hip injury early in the game.
Ryan Hubbard, a 6-3 forward, scored 11 for the Vikings. Sam Vaughn, a 6-6 center, hit three buckets en route to eight points while 6-4 freshman Tyler Vernon had seven points.
“Even when we threw the ball in the post ... the post was in good position to score, shooting over people. I thought we had the size advantage and just couldn’t finish,” said Vikings coach Zack Moore, whose team held a plus-12 advantage in rebounding. “I thought we got good shots on some possessions and other shots we rushed. (Gate City) can make you do that.”
Point guard Tyler Garrison led the Vikings (6-1) with 15 points, including three trifectas.
“We wanted to try to get into Garrison. He handles it for them most of the times we’ve seen them play and he’s a really good point guard,” Vermillion said. “We wanted him to have to work to catch and work to bring it up.”
Tyler Bird scored 11 for Gate City, his first trey giving the permanent go-ahead, 36-33, with 1:23 remaining in the third period. He stroked another timely 3 late in the fourth after Powell Valley had trimmed the margin to 46-41.