The Gate City boys basketball team avenged last year’s Region 2D title game loss to Graham at Virginia Wise’s Prior Center with a 70-52 win Saturday at Graham Middle School.
The regional championship is the Blue Devils’ first since 2013.
“This one feels great. It feels even better that we came here and did it. This is a tough place to play,” Gate City coach Scott Vermillion said. “This is a lot like our place back home. Our guys have been through a lot of adversity having Zac (Ervin) go out and then come back in. This is really a testament to how they’ve adapted to change.”
Ervin finished with a game-high 27 points, and sharpshooting Brad “Dead-Eye” Dean netted 23 points that included five made 3-pointers.
Cameron Allen finished with 18 points for the G-Men.
Gate City built a five-point lead at the half behind a great defensive second quarter. However, Vermillion knew it would not be enough to put away a tough Graham team.
The Blue Devils led by 10 at the end of the third and started the final period on an 6-0 run that iced the win. Graham was never the same after that and Gate City outscored the G-Men 27-19 in the fourth.
“We needed to get ahead by double digits and spread them out,” Vermillion said. “They’re a good team. ... Our guys did a good job on Allen. He’s hard to guard and that’s why he’s a Division I athlete. We played well the second half.”
One year can make a lot of difference, as Dean certainly showed. In last year’s game against Graham, he scored just five points. On Saturday, he knocked down three straight 3-point baskets in the third and quieted the Graham student section while helping Gate City build a double-digit lead going into the fourth.
“He’s older this year. It’s hard when you’re in those situations. Young guys think they’re ready, but you have to go through the wilderness before you’re acclimated to it,” Vermillion said.
“We came into this game with a chip on our shoulder. They embarrassed us at UVa.-Wise last year, and we wanted to come and return the favor,” Dean said.
The Blue Devils will be the home team in the quarterfinals of the VHSL Class 2 tournament when they face Region 2C runner-up Martinsville. Graham will travel to Region 2C champion Radford.
“It feels great not having to go too far on the road, and I told the guys before the game to get one more close,” Vermillion said.