Behind 30 points from senior sharpshooter Bradley “Dead-Eye” Dean, Gate City pulled away late in the fourth quarter to down Union 73-50. However, another Blue Devils senior, Luke Reed, stepped up his game and ended the night with 13 points and 13 rebounds — most of them coming in the second half.
The Blue Devils (3-1, 1-0) had one of their worst 3-point shooting nights in recent memory, going 3-for-16. Dean made just one 3 all night, but it was a big one: He pulled up from the Blue Devils logo nearest the student section — a good 25 feet from the basket.
Jon Compton had somewhat of an off night, getting 12 points but hitting just one field goal in the second half.
“When we don’t shoot it very well, we have to get to the basket and try to draw fouls and make free throws,” Gate City coach Scott Vermillion said. “We took good care of the basketball.
“Luke gets a lot of junk points and our role players really pushed us that last part of the fourth quarter.”
Bradley Bunch spearheaded the Bears’ offense with 14 points — all in the second half — and helped them keep pace in an action-filled third quarter. Each team had 24 points that period, but Union fouled 11 times and sent Gate City to the foul line to shoot in the double-bonus the rest of the way.
The Devils knocked down 20 of 29 free throws in the second half while Union made just nine trips to the line. Gate City also committed just nine turnovers and crashed the offensive glass at nearly every opportunity.
Noah Jordan added 13 points and Alex Rasnick 11 for Union.
“That Union team is going to get better as the year goes along,” Vermillion said. “That is a super scary, young team.”
The Bears (1-1, 0-1) faced a lot of full-court pressure from Gate City and it bothered them, especially in the fourth quarter.
The Blue Devils forced eight second-half turnovers, five in the fourth quarter. They frustrated a young Union team still trying to find its rhythm with only one starter back from last season.
Gate City scored on every one of its possessions after the turnovers.
“We didn’t scrimmage or anything and we’ve just thrown them right into the fire,” Union coach Zack Moore said. “I want our guys to be battle-tested.
“I thought the difference in the game was offensive rebounds. They killed us on the glass, especially in the second half. ... We’re looking for someone to play big for us inside.
“(Bunch) had a great night and we’re going to try to get him more opportunities to score inside. We’ve got seven or eight guys on any given night who can lead us in scoring and that makes us hard to scout. You don’t know who to focus on and that gives more variety.”
The victory extended Gate City’s impressive home winning streak to 60 games, a stretch that dates to Jan. 24, 2015, when the Blue Devils fell to Lebanon during Mac McClung’s freshman year.
That game was also the Blue Devils’ most recent league loss. That winning streak, including tournament games, now stands at 67 and started before they joined the Mountain 7.
LADY DEVILS SURGE
The Lady Blue Devils (2-2, 1-0) led by just three, 26-23, but they used a 16-1 run to earn the mild upset of the previously unbeaten Lady Bears, 59-37.
Macey Mullins shot lights-out from the perimeter, making six 3-pointers and scoring 20 points.
“This is a big win for us tonight, but I think last week really helped us prepare for a game like tonight,” Gate City coach Kelly Houseright said. “We had a tough week and every game was on the road. I didn’t know we’d play as well as we did at times. I thought we might have a lot of energy and they’ve been playing their butts off. We talked about it at halftime that we really wanted to set the tone in the first three minutes of the third quarter.”
Star junior guard Sarah Thompson had a tough shooting night but finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Lexi Ervin had a solid home debut, finishing with nine points off 3-pointers.
Union (4-1, 0-1) went stone cold in the third quarter and didn’t make a field goal until just under two minutes left. By then, Gate City had pulled away and the Lady Bears simply could not find their shot to get back in the game.
Jayda Smith led Union with 10 points and Heather Lipps and Abby Slagle each scored nine.
Gate City’s boys will host their toughest opponent this season thus far when Science Hill makes the trek across the state line on Friday. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.
Gate City’s girls are participating in the Arby’s Ladies Classic at Viking Hall, which begins Thursday. Their first opponent is Sullivan South in a 4 p.m. tipoff.