The Lady Blue Devils played solid defense and took advantage of 29 Union turnovers Tuesday to pull out a 59-52 victory over their Mountain 7 District rivals in the VHSL Class 2 basketball semifinals at the Virginia-Wise David J. Prior Center.
“That’s really the strength of our program. We feel like if we play well defensively that we can play with anybody,” said Gate City coach Kelly Houseright. “We feel like tonight we just came ready to play and we were engaged for four quarters and we didn’t get rattled. I was pleased with that.”
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Though Union (22-8) stayed close throughout the game, Gate City never trailed after taking an 8-0 lead at the outset.
The biggest obstacle for the Lady Bears? Turnovers.
“We just didn’t take care of the ball well enough to have a chance to win the game,” said Union coach Kory Bostic. “Gate City is very talented defensively. Give them a lot of credit for playing great defense.
“They kind of set the tone there early a little bit. I thought we weathered the storm there a few times and kept it in that three-, four-, five-, six-point range. We stayed in striking distance, but then we never could get that key stop or get that key offensive possession to cut it to one or take the lead. Give them credit for making the plays they needed.”
Sarah Thompson highlighted Gate City’s attack on both ends of the floor. The junior had 24 points — going 11-for-15 from the free-throw line — and six steals.
Thompson said having played in big games before helps when in close games.
“You know they’re going to get runs sometimes and we were able to stop it, and when you go to the free-throw line you’ve just got to stay calm,” she said. “And luckily, I was able to knock some free throws down.”
The Lady Blue Devils led 24-20 at halftime and 37-34 after three quarters.
Union hit two 3-point shots in the final 1:38 of the game. Brooke Bailey cut Gate City’s advantage to two, 51-49, with her 3-pointer from the top of the key, but the Lady Blue Devils responded with a shot from freshman Braylin Steele, who finished with 10 points.
Another Union 3, this one from Isabella Blagg, with 53 seconds remaining cut it to three at 55-52. Gate City then closed out the game by hitting 4 of 6 free throws in the final 45 seconds.
Jayda Smith led Union with 19 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots. Fellow senior Emili Brooks had 13 points.
The Lady Blue Devils (19-11) — who reached the state championship game for the first time since 2014 — will play Luray on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. at VCU’s Siegel Center in Richmond.