The Blue Devils outscored host Wise Central 53-39 in the second half to pull away for an 84-67 win.
Gate City (15-5, 11-0), which has never lost a Mountain 7 District game since its inception three years ago, clinched the regular-season title, gained the right to host the Mountain 7 tournament semifinals and championship in two weeks and earned the district’s No. 1 seed for the Region 2D tournament the following week.
“It’s good to know that you’re going in as the No. 1 seed. That’s always the number one goal,” Gate City coach Scotty Vermillion said. “And to win here, I mean heck fire, it’s a hard place to play. Here and Union are the same and both places are so difficult to play at.
“I wish there wasn’t a loser in this type of game because both teams care so much about it, both coaches so much about it.”
See Roddy Addington’s 📸📸 from Friday
The teams battled basket for basket in the first half when Gate City’s Bradley Dean accounted for 20 of his game-high 37 points.
The Blue Devils took a 31-28 halftime advantage into the locker room after Isaiah McAmis and Elijah Hayes — Central’s dynamic duo — were held to just nine and eight points.
The two found more of a shooting touch in the second half for the Warriors (15-6, 8-3). The Roanoke College-bound Hayes finished with a team-high 26 points, and McAmis finished with 23.
While Central’s defense continued to keep pressure on Dean, other Gate City players found their shooting touch over the final two periods. Gate City scored 25 in the third frame and 28 in the fourth.
“My teammates played a big role tonight,” Dean noted. “Everyone came to play and we got a lot of contributions whether it was on the scoreboard or not. A lot of guys came in and rebounded like Luke (Reed) and Dave (George) and (Jonathan) Sallee and (D’Andre) Mack. Andrew (Hensley), Jon (Compton) and Eli (Starnes) hit some really big shots for us.
“We’re just trying to play a team game and that way they just can’t key in on me.”
The plan worked.
Compton finished with 16 points, Starnes had 11 and Hensley added 10.
The game saw 10 lead changes and four ties through the first 2½ quarters.
Gate City went ahead for good with 5:20 to play in the third quarter when Compton hit 3-pointer from the left corner to put the Blue Devils up 36-35. The Devils outscored Central 48-32 the rest of the way.
“They shot the ball really well. I didn’t think we shot it very well. They did,” Warriors coach T.J. McAmis said. “We had a lot of lapses on defense.
“We really didn’t play very well tonight. I’m disappointed in the way we played altogether. They outplayed us tonight. They were more aggressive, they shot the ball better, they defended us better than we defended them. Hats off to them for this game. I thought they outplayed us and I just think we weren’t ready to play tonight and that’s my fault.”
LADY BLUE DEVILS PREVAIL
In the girls’ game, Gate City (11-9, 7-4) got 22 points from Sarah Thompson and nine apiece from Kendal Quillen and Lexi Ervin take a 51-37 win.
After a low-scoring first quarter, the Lady Blue Devils outscored the Lady Warriors (9-12, 4-7) by a 22-9 margin in the second quarter to build a 28-12 halftime lead.
Central found more of a shooting touch in the second half but could not overcome the first-half deficit.
Hannah Carter led the Lady Warriors with nine points.
Gate City and Central wrap up regular-season play next week.
Gate City hosts Daniel Boone on Tuesday and finishes off its Mountain 7 slate Friday at home against Lee High.
Central closes out its regular season Tuesday on the road at Abingdon.