WISE — For the first time since 2008, the Gate City boys are back in the VHSL Final Four.
And they got there in impressive fashion.
Gate City made all the right moves at all the right moments on Saturday to come away with a 64-52 win over Graham in the state quarterfinals at Virginia-Wise.
Next up for the Blue Devils (24-5) is a date with William Monroe (25-4) on Thursday at 9 p.m. in the Division 2 semifinals.
The Dragons advanced with a 74-44 win over Northumberland on Friday.
Nick Bowen quietly got the ball rolling for Gate City on Saturday by hitting 1 of 2 free throws to open the game. Luke Ervin drained one of his patented — and louder — long-range 3-pointers 30 seconds later and the Blue Devils were on top 4-0.
Baskets by Dylan Jenkins and Andy Arnold pushed the advantage to 8-0, and Graham coach Glynn Carlock Jr. was forced to call a timeout only three minutes into the contest.
“We talked before the game about how Gate City comes out quick,” Carlock said. “We needed to weather that.”
But the storm didn’t subside.
The Blue Devils led 13-5 after the first period and, on the strength of back-to-back treys by Bowen, took a 29-18 lead into the half.
“Those 3s by Nick were huge,” said Gate City coach Scott Vermillion. “That really gave us some cushion.”
Arnold opened the third quarter with a quick basket and Ervin and Bowen tossed in another pair of 3-pointers and suddenly Gate City had a 19-point lead, 37-18.
“I didn’t have to do too much tonight,” said Bowen, who finished with 12 points. “My teammates got me the ball when I was open and the shots just dropped.”
Tony Hood put on a one-man show for Graham in the second half. He hit three treys during a 14-2 run that brought the G-Men to within 37-32 with 1:53 to go in the third period.
Gate City fended off the charge and took a 45-35 lead into the final eight minutes of the game.
Hood hit another pair of treys in the fourth period and Graham narrowed the deficit to six, 50-44. But again Gate City proved to be up to the task.
The 6-foot-7 Arnold, with a mismatch inside, was able to dominate the paint and had 11 points down the stretch to help keep the G-Men at bay.
“Graham gave us some defensive looks we hadn’t seen all year,” Vermillion said. “That threw us off at times, but the guys figured things out.
“The encouraging thing for me as a coach is that I still think we haven’t played our best basketball,” he added.
Arnold finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Ervin scored 14 points and Jenkins dished out 10 assists.
Hood finished with 28 points for Graham.
“We expended so much energy trying to come back,” Carlock said. “When we got close, we were just worn out.
“Gate City plays about as hard as any team we’ve seen,” he noted. “They just played tough the whole game.”