NORTON — It was a fun night for Gate City’s basketball team. Away from the rigors of the Clinch Mountain District race, the Blue Devils loosened up with a 79-32 victory Wednesday night over a depleted J.I. Burton squad.
“We want to use our non-district schedule as practice and finish out with league play,’’ Gate City coach Scotty Vermillion said. “It was good to see some kids break the ice and get in the scorebook.’’
Jordan Potts set the pace with a 16-point effort, followed by Paul Arnold with 15 and Trevor Smith with 12.
The Blue Devils (8-7) rocked Burton (3-9) back on its heels at the outset, striking for a 15-1 lead. Burton spent the first 11 minutes of the game looking for a field goal.
Gate City was on top 29-5 before Sawyer Turner finally found his range with a 15-foot jumper inside the lane.
Relentless defensive pressure enabled the Devils to keep firing away. The margin was 31-9 before Gate City backed into a zone.
The rebound advantage went to Gate City, whose Wes Hughes grabbed nine — six on offense.
“Hughes has a nose for the ball,’’ Vermillion said. “He has the potential to be a good rebounder.’’
Open shots were the norm for the Devils.
“(The Raiders) were sagging a little in zone coverage and it opened up things in the first half,’’ Vermillion said. “Potts, Tyler Bird and Luke Ervin hit 3-pointers.’’
Vermillion liked Gate City’s penetration in the second half. “We took it to the goal,’’ the coach said. “Arnold, Potts and Bird threw some nice passes.’’
Aaron Williams, a reputable coach who came over from Castlewood, faces quite a challenge in his first season at Burton. The varsity is down to seven players after a series of suspensions.
The Raiders were outmanned and outplayed but battled until the end.
Gate City’s explosive start consisted of inside and outside scoring. Potts sank a pair of 3-point goals and Smith, maneuvering for creative layups, went on a spree. By the close of the first quarter, Potts and Smith each had eight points.
“This was only my sixth full game since coming back,’’ said Smith, who missed a stretch of the season with a groin injury. “I hurt the groin again after returning. I wanted to be out there helping my teammates but the only thing I could do was communicate with them.’’
Potts said his teammates set him up for long shots. “They did a good job screening.”
He attributed much of the scoring to defense. “I think our defense shook (the Raiders) a little bit. We applied defensive pressure and got a lot of transition baskets.’’
Gate City will host John Battle Friday night in a district game, weather permitting.