RICHMOND — It took Gate City a little longer than usual to make the bus ride to Richmond. But once the Blue Devils got here, they made themselves right at home.
Andy Arnold muscled up a double-double to highlight Gate City’s convincing 73-61 win over William Monroe in Thursday’s Group A, Division 2 semifinal nightcap at VCU’s Siegel Center.
“It’s a wonderful feeling. We’ve worked awfully hard for this moment. It feels like just another game, but really, it’s not,” said Blue Devils coach Scott Vermillion, whose team was snowbound in Waynesboro on the way in. “I told them in the locker room, we’ve still not peaked. I don’t know if that’s something coaches just say. But we had several opportunities to really lock the door, and we didn’t.”
Gate City (25-5) will face Radford on Saturday at 5 p.m. in the Division 2 state title game, which will mark the Blue Devils’ third state championship appearance under coach Scott Vermillion. The Blue Devils were state runners-up in 2007 and 2008 to Clarke County and George Wythe, respectively.
The 6-foot-7 Arnold had a monster game, pulling down 12 rebounds and scoring 21 points — initiating scoring in the first quarter with a slam dunk.
“It just came out of nowhere. I finished it the most efficient way I could,” said Arnold, who also blocked four shots and dished off three assists.
Arnold was Mr. High Percentage Shot, going 6-for-6 from the field. Luke Ervin shot 7-for-9, including three trifectas, on his way to a team-leading 22 points. Dylan Jenkins scored 11 points and sorted out eight assists. Michael Collier scored 10 points, including a couple off Jenkins feeds that eradicated any boost Arnold getting his fourth foul might’ve given the Dragons.
Markel Williams led the Dragons (25-5), scoring 24 points and grabbing nine boards.
Gary Morris scored 10 of his 20 points in the third quarter as the Dragons scrapped to keep the Blue Devils from extending their lead. But while William Monroe never let Gate City feel comfortable, it was never quite able to make Gate City apprehensive. When Monroe coach Mike Maynard called a timeout after Morris’ trifecta with 2:24 showing, the Devils retained a 13-point margin.
There was 1:02 remaining when Arnold picked up his fifth foul. Morris hit another 3 to cut it to 69-58 with 22.4 seconds showing. Maynard called his final timeout. But there was nothing he could do to stop history from happening.