In the end, Gate City survived a furious rally from Wise Central to take a dramatic 46-45 win and claim the title at Virginia-Wise’s Prior Center.
Both teams had already qualified for the VHSL Class 2 tournament quarterfinals on Friday, March 6.
Gate City (22-5) hosts the Region 2C runner-up, either Radford or Glenvar, at an undetermined site; Virginia-Wise or Virginia High are the likely choices. Central (20-8) travels to the Region C area to play the Radford-Glenvar winner.
Radford and Glenvar meet Tuesday in the Region 2C championship game.
Saturday’s championship game was another thriller between the Mountain 7 District rivals, one that featured 12 lead changes and eight ties.
Gate City took the lead for good with 29 seconds to play in the third quarter when Bradley Dean hit two free throws for a 38-36 lead. The foul shots came just nine seconds after Dean nailed a 3-pointer from long distance to tie the game at 36.
After a basket from Eli Starnes put Gate City up 40-36 heading to the fourth quarter, Central’s Isaiah McAmis nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key to cut it to 40-39 just seconds into the final period.
The teams battled back and forth the rest of the way.
McAmis connected on three free throws with 48 seconds left to cut the Gate City lead to 46-45.
Jordan Bishop then came up with a steal and dished off the ball, sending Central the other direction for a potential game-winning shot.
McAmis stumbled from the free- throw line toward the basket and put up an off-balance shot. It fell short and Gate City ran out the clock.
“We’re resilient,” Gate City coach Scotty Vermillion said. “We did not play well at the end. I thought the last four minutes was definitely not our best basketball.
“We found a way to win, which is important. I’ve done this for 22 years and they turn into ugly messes sometimes. That one was a mess at the end. We were fortunate to be a point ahead at the end.”
Dean finished with a game-high 32 points.
“It was a very hard-fought, physical game and I thought our guys did well screening to get me the ball and got in the right places to pass it to me,” he said. “It was a really team-defensive game and we ended up getting a stop at the end that was huge.”
Central coach T.J. McAmis said he was proud of his team, particularly its shooting from the floor.
“I think we made more field goals than them again this game. So for the year we’ve outscored them from the field, they’ve just beat us from the free-throw line,” McAmis said.
Central hit 17 of 43 shots (39.5%) from the floor. Gate City connected on 12 of 36 shots (33.3%) from the field. At the line, Gate City made 90% (18 of 20) of its chances; Central connected on 46.7% (7 of 15).
“That’s the way it goes in tournament play. Union lost (to Gate City) the other night on a foul and drive at the end of the game. And (Gate City) goes to the line and makes it,” McAmis said. “We drive, contact. No foul, game over. That’s just the way it is in tournament play. You’ve got to be strong finishing.”
Isaiah McAmis finished with 26 points.