GATE CITY — Standing toe to toe and slugging it out for the Clinch Mountain District girls basketball tournament title on Friday at Gate City, it was Virginia High that got in the last punch.
And it was a knockout.
With the game tied at 47 with 3:58 to go, the Lady Bearcats outscored the Lady Blue Devils 14-4 down the stretch to secure the sweetest of victories, 61-51.
“Gate City has a great team,” said Virginia High coach Mike Goforth. “To win in this environment hopefully will give us some confidence next week in the regional.”
The Lady Blue Devils (13-11) went through the Clinch Mountain District regular season with a perfect 8-0 record. Three minutes into the second quarter Friday, it looked like they were well on their way to adding another district tournament crown to the trophy case.
Gate City’s oppressive full-court pressure had Virginia High (14-12) tied up in knots and trailing 15-7 with 3:11 left in the second quarter.
“We had to play through the early mistakes,” said the Lady Bearcats’ Teonna Austin. “What we had to do was give their aggressiveness back to them.”
Virginia High did that, and a 15-4 run to close out the first half put the Lady ’Cats on top 22-19.
During that burst, Gate City turned over the ball several times and missed shot after shot in the paint. It was a theme that haunted the Lady Blue Devils for the remainder of the game.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Gate City’s Katie Potts rallied her team to a 33-31 lead with 3:20 to go in the third quarter. But by the start of the decisive fourth, Virginia High was back on top by one, 40-39.
Gate City’s final lead came on a Megan Edwards’ trey with 5:04 to go in the game. It put the Lady Blue Devils ahead 46-44.
A flurry of turnovers and missed scoring opportunities by Gate City, however, left the game tied at 47 with 3:58 on the clock.
From that point, Virginia High could do no wrong and Gate City could do nothing right.
“We had such a good start,” said Lady Blue Devils coach Kelly Houseright. “But again we didn’t finish.
“We made the worst mistakes at the very worst times,” she added. “This is a good wake-up call for us. Maybe we needed it.
“If we expect to make a run in the postseason, we are going to have to be hungry to win.”
Austin finished with a game-high 16 points. Breanna Duff and Savannah Jacobs added 11 apiece for Virginia High.
Morgan Gose and Jordan Gose led Gate City with 12 points each.
The Region D tournament gets under way on Monday with play-in games for the lowest seeds. The championship games for girls and boys Division 1 and 2 teams will be played on Saturday, Feb. 23.