The Blue Devils outlasted Radford 61-55 in overtime Tuesday in the VHSL Class 2 boys basketball semifinals inside the Dedmon Center.
Scotty Vermillion’s team returns to the state championship game for the second time in three years, but it was not easy. The outcome between the even programs came down to success at the free-throw line.
Gate City was 23-for-25 from the line — and didn’t miss until the game was in overtime. The Bobcats were 12-for-18.
“That was the difference in the game. We’d go down on one end and make a bonehead play and then come back and make a great play,” Vermillion said. “They did the same thing, though. (Cam) Cormany hit big-time shots at the end and kept them in the game. This was two good teams and it was a fight to the finish. I only wrote one word on the board tonight and that was ‘Fight.’ ”
After Cormany gave his team a 49-47 lead with under 20 seconds left, Gate City’s David George came through with his only bucket of the game. Taking a beautiful assist from Bradley Dean, George made an up-and-under layup that tied the game at 49 with 6.4 seconds remaining.
The Bobcats (23-4) had a chance when they inbounded the ball under their basket with 1.3 seconds left, but Jon Woods missed the shot.
The Blue Devils stepped up their defense in the extra period, limiting the Bobcats to a single field goal and six points.
Dean outscored Radford himself in OT when he put up seven points, including five from the foul line. The senior sharpshooter finished with a game-high 28.
The most crucial contributor for Gate City, however, was Jon Sallee along with his 11 points.
“Sallee loves this gym,” Vermillion said, jokingly. “They need to recruit him to come play here. He was huge and so was David (George). That bucket at the end, he could’ve easily missed that. Our two big players played really well.”
Eli Starnes contributed early to the GC offense by making two big 3-pointers. He finished with 10 points.
“This was a great defensive effort on both ends. I thought we did pretty well on Cormany, but he just hit some big shots,” Vermillion said. “This team has done something really special in reaching Richmond twice.”
The only other Gate City senior class to play for the state title twice was 2007-08.
The teams were meeting in the state tournament for the third consecutive year.
Two years ago, Gate City got the decision on its way to winning the state championship. The Bobcats returned the favor last year.
A LOOK AHEAD
The road to Richmond ends in the Siegel Center against one of the capital city’s own: the John Marshall Justices.
John Marshall, the top-ranked Class 2 team all season, also is one of the top teams in the state across all divisions.
The Justices (23-2) have won 17 games in a row — 14 by double digits — since a one-point setback to nationally ranked McEachren of Georgia in late December.
Since the beginning of February, John Marshall has averaged 102.4 points per game, including a 136-99 victory over Stuart’s Draft in last week’s state quarterfinals.
The Region A champion Justices dismantled East Rockingham, last year’s state runner-up, 78-44 in the other semifinal.
Leading the Justices are Region A player of the year Jason Nelson and 6-foot-10 Roosevelt Wheeler. They also feature all-region honorees in Elijah Steward and freshman point guard Dennis Parker Jr.
The Justices won the 2018 Class 3 state title and have nine other title game appearances in school history — earning six other titles overall.
“(John Marshall) is very, very good and they present a major problem,” Vermillion said. “We will just go up there and play. We’re not going to do any scheming and just hope for the best.
"Hats off to Coach (Rick) Cormany. I think he’s the best anywhere and he does it right with his kids.”
The state final tips off at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday at VCU’s Siegel Center, following the Gate City girls’ state championship battle with Luray that starts at 12:30 p.m.