It was the Blue Devils’ 71st home win in their past 72 tries — and the best way for the team’s six seniors to exit their home court.
Bradley “Dead-Eye” Dean poured in 35 points, including four bombs from beyond the arc. Fellow senior Andrew Hensley, who has steadily improved throughout the season, netted 26 points.
“This was a good way to send out the seniors,” Gate City coach Scott Vermillion said. “Anytime you get to play a few extra games at home and host tournament games, it’s a good thing. Gives our coaches a good opportunity to see a lot of kids play, too.
“(Hensley) has come so far this season. He dealt with some ankle injuries this year and he has some confidence now,” Vermillion added. “All that mental stuff that you deal with being a young player, he’s gotten through that. Now he’s turned into a good player.”
Lebanon junior guard Sage Potts impressed with 28 points and Preston Steele netted 22. However, no one else for Lebanon scored more than seven.
The Devils — who had not gotten off to great starts in their previous two games — came out on fire this night.
Gate City scored 26 points in the opening quarter during which Dean knocked down three 3-pointers. He had 17 points at the break.
Hensley was also having a good game, totaling 12 by halftime.
“A lot of that is the attitude we start the game with,” Vermillion said. “We are going to try to do better like we did tonight. We started with some urgency and we didn’t get as many defensive stops as we should have early on.”
PIONEERS CHIP AWAY
Lebanon did cut Gate City’s lead to 10 points with about three minutes left in the second quarter. The Blue Devils quickly countered with a 6-0 run, however, and their lead eventually ballooned to close to 20 points.
Though Gate City led by 16 at the half, Lebanon put 17 second-quarter points on the board thanks to a mostly crisp offense.
Gate City takes on Union for the third time this season when the teams meet in the semifinal round Thursday evening at the Virginia-Wise Prior Convocation Center.
The teams’ first matchup was a 23-point Blue Devils victory at Gate City on Dec. 17, but the Bears nearly got the win in Big Stone Gap on Jan. 24. Union had a five-point lead with under a minute to go before Gate City pulled out a 55-52 win.
“Union is a tough group,” Vermillion said. “They have so many guys that you have to guard and you can't really key on one player. They are a team that has improved as much as any team I’ve seen throughout the season. It will be a good basketball game on Thursday.”