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Ervin powers Blue Devils back into state semifinals

By JOHNNY WILSON, Sports Correspondent • Mar 2, 2019 at 3:41 AM

BRISTOL, Va. — It’s safe to say that Zac Ervin is back, and now the Gate City boys basketball team is motoring its way back to the state semifinals, looking to successfully defend its 2018 VHSL Class 2 championship.

Having undergone meniscus surgery on a knee the last week of January and subsequently missing eight games before returning Feb. 20, Ervin scored 24 points and carried the Blue Devils to a 47-41 Class 2 quarterfinal victory over Martinsville on Friday night at the Bearcat Den.

Gate City (25-3) now faces unbeaten Radford in the state semifinals Tuesday night at Pulaski County High School. Radford beat Graham 66-51 Friday.

View the photo gallery from the game

“One of the greatest wins we’ve ever had,” said longtime Gate City coach Scott Vermillion, who has won more than 200 games, including a state title.


Jon Compton was huge with three 3-point jumpers, Jon Sallee was strong on the baseline against a more physical opponent and Bradley Dean was excellent defensively on the perimeter. But Ervin was the man on this night.

A 6-foot-5 forward, Ervin scored 14 of his game-high total in the fourth period when the Blue Devils overcame a 30-28 deficit.

An old-fashioned three-point play by Ervin gave Gate City a 33-30 edge it would not relinquish. Suddenly, after struggling to find offense all evening against the supremely athletic Bulldogs, the Blue Devils found buckets down the stretch.

“Martinsville’s zone really gave us a lot of problems with their athleticism, but coach just told me I had to be aggressive there in the fourth quarter and I was able to do that,” said Ervin, who now has more than 2,300 career points. “I had to find holes in that zone and just attack and get fouled and get to the free-throw line, and that’s what was successful in the end.”

Vermillion was searching for answers after trailing by four points late in the third and not getting any offensive production anywhere.

“I was praying to God, to be honest with ya, that He would give me something that would work,” Vermillion said.

Gate City hit Martinsville (22-7) with a 9-3 spurt in the fourth period, turning a 34-32 lead to a 43-35 advantage, and the Blue Devils held on from there.

“Those two free throws Jon Sallee hit (making it 36-32) were huge, as was that 3 from the corner by Jon Compton (giving Gate City a 39-32 advantage),” Vermillion said.

Compton finished with nine points.


Bulldogs coach Jeff Adkins, who spread the floor all evening looking to beat Gate City off the dribble and kick out for 3-pointers, got 10 points apiece from guards Khalil Travis and Troy Brandon.

“We just couldn’t hit shots,” Adkins noted. “We were up four with the ball and couldn’t get a good look. We just couldn’t hit big shots in the paint.”

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