The Blue Devils (4-4, 2-0), who haven’t lost to a district foe since January 2015, returned from a learning experience in Florida over the Christmas break, during which they lost a pair of tournament games against top-caliber competition.
“Those teams in Florida were 6A and 7A schools with 2,000 and 3,000 students,” said longtime Gate City coach Scott Vermillion. “And Science Hill is no shabby team either, and those Tennessee schools (Daniel Boone and Dobyns-Bennett) are good. That’s why we play that schedule.
“You know, we’ve been very fortunate to run the tables on our league for several years and I’m sure those guys are sitting there waiting, thinking we’re down. Maybe we are and maybe we aren’t, but that’s not my concern. My concern is that we become a little better each time we practice and play. Tonight we got better.”
Those around the Gate City program have seen the Blue Devils as an offensive-minded team in recent years, but the Trojans (4-5, 0-2) beg to differ.
Gate City’s in-your-face defense produced a good number of the Trojans’ 28 turnovers, a fact first-year Battle coach Steve Posey found hard to swallow.
“I thought we were prepared and we did OK in the first quarter, but in typical Gate City fashion they turned up the pressure and we made lazy passes and they just put it on us,” said Posey, whose club trailed 27-19 before Gate City finished the first half on a 10-2 run. “Gate City has another good team.”
Vermillion said the days of Mac McClung and Zac Ervin are in the rear-view mirror.
“When Mac came along we really wanted to keep him on the floor, but prior to that we were a defensive-minded program,” Vermillion said. “Not that we weren’t with those guys, too, we just did it differently.
“We’ve got the athleticism (on this team) to do that this year.”
Still, Gate City did hang 90 points on Battle, outscoring the Trojans 35-9 in the third quarter.
Senior guard Brad Dean led the Blue Devils with 37 points, hitting four 3-point bombs and 15 of 26 shots from the floor. He had a pair of fastbreak dunks.
Senior teammate Jon Compton, once primarily just a defensive whiz, made 5 of 12 shots from beyond the arc and scored 19 points. Andrew Hensley scored 12 points for Gate City, including the first two of the game on a two-handed dunk in transition.
Reed Samuel had 11 points and Zac Smith 10 for Battle.
LADY DEVILS EASE TO WIN
Gate City’s girls won their second Mountain 7 game in as many outings, methodically easing past John Battle 67-50.
The Lady Blue Devils (5-4, 2-0) led 21-17 at the first stop and 34-27 at halftime, before expanding their advantage to 47-35 by the end of the third quarter.
Junior Sarah Thompson scored 17 points to pace balanced Gate City, which received two 3-point jumpers and a 13-point effort from freshman Lexi Ervin.
Bethany Smith, a senior, buried six 3-point shots and scored 24 points to lead the Lady Trojans (3-6, 0-2). Teammate Anna McKee tossed in 16 points.