On Tuesday night inside Charles C. Long Gymnasium, a veteran Lebanon girls basketball team overcame a six-point deficit with 2:16 left to defeat Gate City 45-44 in the quarterfinals of the Region 2D tournament.
Lebanon will play two-time defending Class 2 state champion Wise Central in the semifinals on Thursday at Virginia High’s Bearcat Den.
Alyssa Padilla — who finished with 11 points — was the heroine for Lebanon (21-5) down the stretch. She was intentionally fouled by Gate City’s Sarah Thompson at midcourt with 48.5 seconds left and knocked down the ensuing two free throws to cut the Lady Blue Devils’ lead to one.
On the inbounds play, Padilla got the ball, drove to the basket and sank what turned out to be the game-winning bucket with under 30 seconds to play.
Gate City (17-10) had several chances to regain the lead, including on the next possession when Thompson was dribbling down the court, but she was called for a double dribble while trying to get around her defender.
Following a crazy sequence, the Lady Blue Devils had possession with 9.2 seconds left and had a play set up to Jaden Fullen, but the ball was knocked out of bounds as the horn sounded, and the clock struck all zeros on Gate City.
“We just made bad decisions down the stretch and that cost us,” said Gate City coach Kelly Houseright. “I’ll take the blame for it. It was miscommunication or whatever. I’m fine with taking the blame for it. When we lose, it’s on me. ... We weren’t really wanting to foul at all. That was not the plan. We fought back and we could’ve bowed down and quit.”
Fullen finished with a game-high 19 points and Thompson scored nine.
The Lady Pioneers started fast, blitzing Gate City in the first quarter with a lot of speed from their five guards. Kara Long and Averie Price knocked down two early 3-pointers and Lebanon led 15-8 at the end of the first quarter. Each ended the night with 11 points.
The second quarter was dead even — each squad scoring 11 points — but a key moment came when Thompson went out at the 3:47 mark after the back of her head hit the court hard. The Lady Blue Devils looked out of sorts over the last three minutes plus, making a multitude of bad entry passes to Fullen in the paint that resulted in Lebanon steals.
Gate City came out of the locker room determined and started the half on an 8-2 run. Kara Long picked up her fourth foul and had to sit for the rest of the period.
Gate City tied the game at 31 with 1:43 left in the third, but Charlee Long hit a big 3-pointer to put Lebanon back out front, 34-31.
Kara Long picked up her final foul not even 40 seconds into the fourth and Gate City seized the momentum, gaining a 35-34 advantage. The lead was the first for the Lady Blue Devils since 5-4 early. Minus Kara Long, Lebanon looked all out of sorts and Gate City went on a 7-0 run capped by a Thompson 3-pointer with 4:05 left.
“We controlled the fourth quarter up until the end,” Houseright said. “Lebanon played well. I don’t want to take anything away from them. Rex (Parker) does a great job with them.”