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Rivalries, rematches abound in VHSL Final Fours

Kevin Mays • Mar 5, 2019 at 2:07 AM

WISE — If you’re a Southwest Virginia basketball fan, you probably already know this in advance of Tuesday’s VHSL Class 2 and Class 1 semifinal games but, just in case, a piece of advice:

Show up early.

Big crowds are expected to fill the large venues to watch their teams play for the right to travel to Richmond on Saturday to continue their pursuit of a state championship.

Several games are big rivalries and two pit district foes against one another.

GATE CITY, RADFORD MEET AGAIN

Last season, Radford was undefeated and on the way to competing for a third straight state title before being derailed by eventual champion Gate City in the Class 2 quarterfinals.

This year’s scenario is eerily similar.

Radford (28-0) meets Gate City (25-3) in a VHSL Class 2 boys semifinal game at Pulaski County High School. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Neither Radford nor Gate City has lost to a VHSL opponent this season.

The Bobcats have rolled through their schedule with only one of their 28 wins coming by less than double digits.

Gate City’s three losses have come to Cleveland, Tenn., Dobyns-Bennett and Wenonah of Birmingham, Ala.

The Blue Devils are led by senior and Wofford-bound Zac Ervin and junior Bradley Dean.

Ervin missed eight games this season because of a knee injury. He’s still managed to score 641 points, averaging just over 32 per game. He has 2,316 career points, just 12 shy of all-time top 10 in VHSL history.

Dean has scored 1,349 points in his career and is averaging 24.6 per game this year.

CENTRAL, RIDGEVIEW TO CLASH AGAIN

Wise Central has defeated Ridgeview three times this season. The last meeting was the most dramatic, however.

The Lady Warriors outlasted the Lady Wolfpack 49-46 on Feb. 23 to win the Region 2D championship. The victory came on a 30-foot, buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Brook Porter.

Such drama is anticipated again in the Class 2 girls semifinal that features the past five state champions. Central has won the last two state titles and four of the last five. The only state championship the Lady Warriors didn’t win in that span, in 2016? Ridgeview won that one.

Both teams enter the game with a number of players who can, and have, come up big at any time this season.

Porter averages 13.5 points per game. Dee Cvetnich gets 12.8 points and 11.2 rebounds, Hannah Carter averages 9.2 points and 5.5 rebounds and Olivia Mullins is at 8.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.7 assists a game for Central (24-4).

The senior duo of Bailey Frazier and Nikole Counts makes Ridgeview (21-8) run. Frazier, the reigning Class 2 state player of the year, averages 16.1 points per game, 6.5 rebounds, 4.4 steals and 3.1 blocks. Counts goes for 13.2 points and 5 rebounds and surpassed the 1,000-point career mark this year.

The Final Four clash is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. tipoff at the Virginia-Wise Prior Convocation Center.

ANOTHER CUMBERLAND COLLISION

The sixth meeting of the season between the boys of Eastside (25-4) and J.I. Burton (22-7) is the biggest one yet: a Class 1 semifinal collision at Virginia-Wise’s Prior Center. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.

If the game is near the caliber of the previous meetings this season between the Cumberland District powers — which are separated by about 12 miles — it will be a classic. Eastside took wins in three of the five, including two in overtime. Their most recent matchup, on Feb. 23 at the Prior Center in a dramatic Region 1D championship, went to Burton.

Burton is playing in its first state semifinal since 2013, but Eastside is taking part in its second straight. The Spartans defeated George Wythe last year to reach the Class 1 championship game, where they fell to Lancaster.

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