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Lady Blue Devils' Houseright no stranger to success

Kevin Mays • Mar 23, 2020 at 1:15 PM

GATE CITY — Gate City’s Kelly Smith Houseright knows how to win.

On March 12, this year’s Times News Southwest Virginia Coach of the Year for girls basketball led the Lady Blue Devils to the VHSL Class 2 championship.

The state title was the first for Lady Blue Devils basketball since 2006 as well as the first for the squad since Houseright took the program’s reins 13 years ago.

The title-clinching 64-54 win over Luray followed some heartbreaking losses in Richmond. In 2012, Gate City fell to George Mason 50-47 and in 2014 lost 47-38 to Wise Central in the finals.

The defeat by Central was especially tough. Not only did it come at the hands of a Mountain 7 District opponent, but it also came against a team Gate City had beaten four times in the teams’ previous meetings that season.

Those losses were tough for Houseright, a competitor to the end. But they were also building blocks to finally achieving the ultimate goal, the state championship trophy.

“We’ve had some good teams,” Houseright said. “We’ve been blessed with good players and we’ve been blessed with some good kids in the program. That makes it easier to keep going and makes you want to keep going.”

The Lady Blue Devils finished 20-11 during this past season but, as Houseright has noted, their record was deceiving.

True to their coach’s mentality, Gate City seemed to get stronger after each loss.

LONGTIME SUCCESS

Her winning mentality has carried Houseright for a long time, but so has her faith.

“The Lord has a plan and you’ve just got to trust in that,” she said.

During her high school basketball career at Rye Cove, Houseright was an All-Cumberland District selection all four of her varsity years. She made the All-Region D team three times and was all-state her senior year.

Among her awards her senior year? Recognition as player of the year by both the Times News and the Cumberland District.

She finished her career as the school’s all-time leading scorer at the time, piling up 1,790 points. She also had 1,100 rebounds.

During her years at Rye Cove, the Lady Eagles finished as Cumberland champions three times and Region D champions twice, and they made three state tournament appearances.

Houseright was also a star on the volleyball court for Rye Cove. During her four varsity seasons, the Lady Eagles twice finished as state runner-up and twice as a state quarterfinalist.

In her senior season, Houseright was all-state as well as the Region D and Cumberland District player of the year.

She was named to the All-Cumberland team all four years and to the All-Region D team three times. She also was an honorable mention selection on the All-Region D squad her freshman year.

COLLEGIATE SUCCESS

Houseright’s success on the basketball court continued into the college ranks at Emory & Henry.

She holds 20 records in Wasps women’s basketball, including the career scoring record of 1,651 points. Other E&H marks with her name next to them are most points in a season (508) and most points in a game (36).

Houseright holds the career school records for 3-point field goals (206) and free throws (479). She has the records for both free throws in a season (165) and in a game (17).

During her time at Emory & Henry, Houseright made the All-Old Dominion Athletic Conference team three times and was an ODAC all-tournament pick twice.

In 2001, her junior season, Houseright was the ODAC player of the year.

“That was a long time ago,” she noted.

FRAME OF MIND

Houseright brought her winning attitude into a coaching career that included a five-year stint at now-closed Powell Valley High School before going to Gate City and finally earning that first state championship ring.

“You just have to be patient and do things the right way,” Houseright said.

CRAZY TIMES

The Lady Blue Devils’ state championship was the only girls hoops title decided on the court this year.

The Class 2 championship games for boys and girls were the only ones played because the VHSL was forced to cancel the finals for the remaining five classes because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was kind of crazy,” Houseright said. “We really didn’t realize the severity of it as to how fast it was happening until we were on our way back.

“I was kind of shocked really. We were very fortunate to play.”

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