Gate City battled back from an 11-point halftime deficit to take a dramatic 66-61 overtime victory over Union, and Wise Central knocked off Southwest District champion Graham 70-44 in Thursday’s Region 2D semifinals at the Virginia-Wise Prior Convocation Center.
The Gate City and Central wins set up the fourth meeting this season between the district rivals in Saturday’s 8 p.m. championship game. It also clinched spots for both teams in next week’s VHSL Class 2 tournament.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
Gate City (21-5) pulled off another dramatic come-from-behind win after trailing a youthful, determined Union squad 31-20 at halftime.
In the second half, the Blue Devils chipped away at their deficit, first outscoring the Bears (17-10) in the third quarter to knock down Union’s advantage to 44-40. In the final period, Gate City took advantage of five Union turnovers, and two free throws by the Blue Devils’ Bradley Dean with 52 seconds left in regulation tied the contest at 53.
Seconds later Alex Rasnick hit a running jumper to give Union a 55-53 lead. But Dean responded with two more free throws with seven seconds on the clock to tie it at 55.
A potential game-winning shot from Union was off the mark, sending the game to OT.
The teams swapped baskets in the extra period until Gate City made a 5-0 push in the final minute of the game.
The win gave the Gate City boys a 16th trip to the state tournament since 1993 and fifth state tournament appearance in a row.
Blue Devils coach Scotty Vermillion was happy with the way his team played down the final stretch, but he was also impressed with the fight Union gave his squad.
“I thought Union controlled the game. Hats off to those guys. They’re young and well coached,” said Vermillion. “Two weeks ago, I looked at the possibility of who we might play (in the region semifinals) and I did not want to play Union.
“They’re coming. They were very good. Our guys were really good finishing and we’ve got a good team. I’m proud of Union’s team. I really am.”
Dean finished with a game-high 32 points. Andrew Hensley had 19 and David George scored 10 for Gate City.
Union got 23 points from Rasnick, who surpassed the 1,000-point career mark during the game. Sean Cusano finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds and Bradley Bunch had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
BIG NIGHT FOR WARRIORS
Central’s win gave coach T.J. McAmis his first trip to the state tournament.
McAmis, who announced earlier this month that he is resigning his coaching post at the conclusion of this season, has been a head coach for 20 years with most of that time at J.J. Kelly and Wise. He has coached in the regional semifinals four times, but prior to Thursday, his teams had fallen short of the regional final.
He’s racked up 241 wins, but McAmis admitted Thursday’s victory was one of the more special ones.
“My legacy has already been written. But selfishly I wanted this game, but I couldn’t put too much emphasis on it for these guys,” McAmis said. “For me personally, it’s an exclamation point for the career and hopefully we’re not done.”
The win that marks Central’s first trip to the Region 2D boys final broke the school record for most victories in a season with 20.
Graham (19-7) dominated in the early going to build a 12-3 lead with 4:26 to play in the opening quarter.
From that point on, it was all Central.
Sparked by two 3-pointers from the corner from Jordan Bishop, Central began a 40-13 run over the remainder of the first half to take a 43-25 halftime lead.
“I really like the corner,” said Bishop, who finished with 12 points. “For half of the first quarter, they were pressuring (Isaiah McAmis and Elijah Hayes), and I knew I had to step up and hit some shots.”
Stats-wise, Hayes had the biggest night for Central with 26 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals. Isaiah McAmis added 14 points and six assists.
Graham got 10 points from David Graves.