Ervin scored 15 of his game-high 21 points in the second half after Dean had nine of his 14 in the second quarter. Gate City needed every one of them, plus the 10 from Jon Sallee, to take a hard-fought 57-51 win over Wise Central in the Region 2D semifinals at Graham Middle School.
“In a game where 50 points is scored, every bucket is like three or four points,” said Gate City coach Scott Vermillion.
Gate City (23-3) advanced to Saturday’s Region 2D championship against Graham, a rematch of last year’s regional title game. They’re scheduled for a 6 p.m. tipoff at Graham Middle.
The win also clinched defending state champion Gate City a spot in the VHSL Class 2 tournament for the fourth year in a row.
BATTLE TO THE END
Gate City jumped ahead in the second quarter behind Dean’s scoring effort. The Blue Devils led 9-8 after one quarter before taking a 26-17 halftime advantage.
Gate City opened a bigger lead in the third quarter, enjoying as much as a 16-point advantage before Central (16-11) pulled to 40-28 by the end of the third quarter.
“Their kids played picture perfect, I thought,” Vermillion said. “We hit some shots and stretched (the lead) at the end of the second, and that turned out to be the difference.”
FREE THROWS SEAL THE DEAL
The Warriors made a run in the final two minutes of play, cutting a 52-40 Gate City lead to 54-51 with 23 seconds left.
A free throw from the Blue Devils’ Jon Compton put Gate City back up by four before a steal and two more free throws from Drew Vermillion sealed the win.
TOUGHNESS AND CHARACTER
The season was a trying one at times for the Warriors, who lost team leader Isaiah McAmis to an ACL injury before the campaign even began. But coach T.J. McAmis said the Warriors battled through adversity and made it farther than most expected them to.
“It’s a testament to their heart and their toughness and their character,” he said.
Tyler Vanover led the Central offense with 14 points. Elijah Hayes finished with 12 and Bryson Collings had 10.
GRAHAM RUNS AWAY FROM UNION
Southwest District and defending Region 2D champion Graham (20-5) held off a furious comeback effort from Union (15-12) midway through the fourth quarter and then closed out the game with a run of its own for a 56-42 win in the other regional semifinal game.
Union pulled to within five points, 43-38, with 3:04 remaining, but the G-Men ended the game with a 13-4 run that was aided by a technical foul on the Union bench plus an intentional foul charged against them.
Graham’s Cam Allen scored 26 points, Drew Baker finished with 12 and Nick Owens added 11.
Union got 13 apiece from Andy Jones and Noah Garrison.