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Five local teams seeking semifinal berths in Virginia state tournament

KEVIN MAYS • Mar 5, 2020 at 7:57 PM

🚨 Editor’s Note: The VHSL Class 2 girls basketball state quarterfinal game between Union and Martinsville and the VHSL Class 1 boys basketball state quarterfinal between Eastside and Auburn, originally scheduled for Friday, have been postponed until Saturday. The Union Lady Bears will face Martinsville Saturday at 4 p.m. and Eastside will play Auburn at 6 p.m. at the UVA Prior Convocation Center. The story has been updated to reflect the schedule changes made at noon, Friday.

WISE — On paper, Glenvar looks like an average team.

That’s why Gate City coach Scotty Vermillion does not trust what a team looks like on paper.

“They’re a very difficult team to get a read on,” Vermillion said of the Highlanders.

Gate City (22-5) will host Glenvar (13-13) Friday in a VHSL Class 2 boys basketball state quarterfinal game at Virginia High in Bristol.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Bearcat Den.

While Glenvar has won only 50% of its games this season, a lot of those victories have come in the postseason.

“They won six games in February and then won three out of four in the (Region C). They’re playing their best basketball right now,” said Vermillion.

The fact the Highlanders have had upset wins over several teams in the postseason is not lost on Vermillion, who directed the Blue Devils to their fifth straight state tournament appearance.

“They have three or four very athletic guards and they’re very quick,” the coach said.

Led by Avery Alexander, the son of former Emory & Henry star Kevin Alexander, and sophomore Steven Barber Jr., Glenvar has found a new energy in the postseason.

“They play with a great amount of passion and with a great amount of energy,” Vermillion remarked.

The coach said his Blue Devils need to be more aggressive.

“We need to loosen up,” he said. “We need to do what we do and loosen up.”

Gate City comes into the game behind the leadership of senior Bradley Dean, who became the school’s third player in consecutive years to surpass the 2,000-point career mark.

Dean is averaging 30 points per game this season.

ON THE ROAD

In the other Class 2 boys basketball state quarterfinal game on the western end of the state, Wise Central (20-8) travels to Roanoke College to take on defending state champion Radford (23-3) Friday in a 5 p.m. contest.

The game will mark the first appearance in the state tournament for both Central and Warriors coach T.J. McAmis.

McAmis, who is leaving the coaching ranks at the conclusion of this season, says Radford is a team that is similar to his squad.

“I told our players that they’re facing a team that is close to them in philosophy,” McAmis said.

The Bobcats, coached by the legendary Rick Cormany, who has more than 700 career wins and five state championships, have a strong nucleus led by juniors Alex Kanipe and Cam Cormany — the coach’s son.

Central has a solid team led by seniors Elijah Hayes and Isaiah McAmis — the coach’s son.

McAmis knows his team is playing a tough foe, but he also knows his squad is up to the challenge if it plays its game.

“We can’t let the event be bigger than the game,” he said. “We have to stay focused for the whole game. We can’t have periods or moments of letting up because they’re a team that will just keep coming at you for the whole game.”

FAMILIAR TERRITORY

In the VSHL Class 1 boys state basketball quarterfinals, Eastside will be playing on its home court away from home.

The Spartans (18-9) will host Auburn (20-6) on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Virginia-Wise David J. Prior Convocation Center.

Eastside played at the Prior during the Cumberland District tournament and the Grand Home Furnishings Holiday Classic in December.

The Spartans will be happy with the “home-court” advantage in hopes of exacting revenge against the Eagles, who beat Eastside 59-32 in early January in the Chance Harmon Classic at Floyd County.

“That was like the turning point for us in the season,” Eastside coach Patrick Damron said. “We knew then that if we didn’t change some things, we were not going to be very successful.”

Since then the Spartans have won the Cumberland and Region 1D championships.

For Eastside to be successful, Damron said the Spartans will have to play aggressively and attack the basket.

“When we’re aggressive, I feel like we’re a hard out. When we’re not aggressive, we’re very average,” said Damron.

Eastside, making its fifth straight state playoff appearance, also has to be aggressive on defense, the coach said.

“We have to make them uncomfortable because they’re a very methodical kind of team,” he remarked. “When they’re comfortable, you’re probably uncomfortable because they’re scoring a lot on you. They’re very good.”

GIRLS TOURNAMENT

Two local girls basketball teams will open play in the VHSL Class 2 state tournament.

Region 2D runner-up Gate City (17-11) will travel to Auburn, in Riner, to play Region 2C champion Floyd County in a 6 p.m. contest.

The Lady Blue Devils, led by junior Sarah Thompson, enter the state tournament looking for a chance to advance to next week’s state title game for the first time since 2014.

Region 2D champion Union (20-7) is another squad looking to get back to the state championship game.

The Lady Bears advanced to the state title tilt in 2016 but lost to fellow Mountain 7 District foe Ridgeview.

The four seniors on the squad were in the eighth grade then, and they’re excited about the chance to write their own history.

Union, which won its first regional championship in school history last week, will host Region C runner-up Martinsville (20-8) at 4 p.m., Saturday, at the Prior Center.

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