GATE CITY — Beating arch rival Virginia High 69-63 in Thursday night’s Clinch Mountain District boys tournament semifinals was a big deal for Gate City’s players.
The school of hard knocks has taught them that meeting the Bearcats again down the road will be an even bigger deal.
“We’re definitely going to see them again, so we can’t be too happy about it. But I’m glad we won and glad we’re going on to play Saturday,” said Gate City’s Luke Ervin, who led the Blue Devils with 24 points.
In Thursday’s semifinal opener, Lebanon collected its third hard-fought win of the season against John Battle. The Pioneers (16-7) will face the Blue Devils (19-5) in Saturday’s title game.
Last year, Gate City beat Virginia High three times but had their season ended by the ‘Cats in Region D tournament play.
“We don’t go into games expecting to win them like we did last year. We know that we have to play hard against everybody and we could lose any night,” said Blue Devils post Andy Arnold, who fouled out with 1:16 left to play.
The 6-foot-7 Arnold didn’t block any shots, but his long arms in the lane were still a big factor on defense. He had eight points and seven rebounds. His dunk on an in-bounds play near the start of the decisive fourth frame got the crowd into the game.
Virginia High (11-13) took its last lead of the game at 3:13 in the third quarter on a Nick Howard 3-pointer. The Bearcats led by three points a minute later when Ervin put the game on his shoulders. He tied it up at 42 with his three-point play at 1:58, muscling up a huge offensive board on the next possession. He put the ball on the floor once and put it in the hole.
Dylan Jenkins, who scored 14 points and handed out six assists for Gate City, kept the run going. He added a dramatic finger-roll, then banked a floater, drawing the foul for the and-one and the 49-42 lead.
Michael Collier scored 15 for the Blue Devils. In the possession after Toure Fudge gave the rallying ‘Cats their last game-tying bucket at 56 with 3:52 left to play, Collier got trapped behind the Gate City backboard. An inexplicable pivot step and scoop shot later, Gate City was in front for good.
“That was almost like a trick shot,” marveled Gate City coach Scott Vermillion.
Fudge and Bossard, both of whom fouled out over the final three minutes, scored 10 apiece for Virginia High. Howard led them with 14 while Derrick Lee and Trey Lang, who also fouled out, added 11 points apiece.
In the nightcap, the Pioneers mailed a Valentine to coach Thad Lambert’s ailing mother, beating John Battle 51-45.
Lambert’s 55-year-old mom, Donita, underwent a double lung transplant in July. She had been cleared by doctors to attend Thursday’s basketball game on Tuesday but developed pneumonia Wednesday morning. She was subsequently admitted to the University of Virginia hospital in Charlottesville and put on a ventilator.
“These kids went out and won this game for my mom tonight and this just means everything to me,” said Lambert, who got 14 points and eight rebounds from Jake Smith. “It means a lot to be able to call and tell her that we won. The last thing she told me before she wasn’t able to talk any more was that we’d better win this game.”
Austin Bollinger scored 13 for the Pioneers (16-7) and Ben Sexton chipped in 10.
Dylan Garrett stroked six trifectas on his way to 20 points to pace the Trojans (13-10).comments powered by Disqus