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Gate City girls capture second state basketball title 

KEVIN MAYS • Mar 12, 2020 at 8:29 PM

RICHMOND — Gate City’s girls basketball team did not win its district’s regular-season championship.

The Lady Blue Devils did not win the Mountain 7 District tournament nor the Region 2D championship.

On Thursday, however, Gate City won the biggest trophy of all.

View Tanner Cook’s photo gallery from the game

Behind Sarah Thompson’s 19 points and eight rebounds, Macey Mullins’ 15 points and a 10-0 scoring run over a five-minute span in the third quarter, the Lady Blue Devils took a 64-54 win over Luray at Virginia Commonwealth’s Siegel Center to win the VHSL Class 2 state championship.

The state title is the second in the program’s history. The first Lady Blue Devils’ title came in 2006.

WINNING THE RACE

In the end, the game came down to an endurance test and Gate City (20-11) passed it.

The two teams kept things close in the first half with eight lead changes and five ties.

The biggest lead before intermission came when Macey Mullins hit a buzzer-beating 3-point shot to give the Lady Devils a 30-26 halftime advantage.

The pace stayed steady in the third quarter.

Luray’s Brynlee Burrill cut Gate City’s lead to 36-32 with 5:19 left in the period.

From that point, Gate City took control.

A pressing defense and a 10-5 rebounding advantage in the quarter helped the Lady Blue Devils keep Luray scoreless for the final five minutes.

Gate City rolled off 10 unanswered points to build a 46-32 lead by the end of the third.

“At halftime we tried to make some adjustments, and I thought we came out in the third quarter and really set the tone,” said Gate City coach Kelly Houseright. “We talked about getting on the boards. They were out-rebounding us. I think they had eight offensive rebounds at halftime, and they ended up with 10 for the game. We did a better job of controlling the boards in the second half and that was a difference.”

Luray (29-2) out-rebounded the Lady Devils 21-15 in the first half. In the second half, Gate City won the rebounding contest 15-6.

Losing the rebounding war and Gate City’s third-quarter scoring run proved to be costly factors for coach Joe Lucas’ Luray squad.

“They were able to make a run there in the third quarter and sort of open it up. We sort of ran out of gas a little bit, and that led to getting us into foul trouble, and also they won the battle on the glass pretty decisively in the second half.”

WORTH THE WORK

Gate City senior Kendal Quillen, who finished the game with eight points was sad to see her basketball career end. But she was thrilled to go out as a state champion.

“It honestly feels surreal,” Quillen said. “I just can’t believe we actually did it. I’m just thankful for all of my teammates.”

Mullins, a sophomore, said the Lady Blue Devils were able to take the title even when there were plenty of doubters.

“It feels amazing,” Mullins stated. “Nobody had faith in us and nobody thought that we could actually do it and we proved them wrong.”

Thompson, the Lady Blue Devils’ floor general, said the win was a culmination of a season-long team effort.

“I’m really proud of the team,” Thompson said. “We come to practice and we work hard. No one thought we were going to be here, but we believed in ourselves and we believed in the process and we trusted the process and this is where it got us.

“Everybody on the team dreamed of being here and to think that we did it is an amazing feeling and I’m proud of my team.”

The process included a grueling schedule that included contests against larger Tennessee schools like Dobyns- Bennett, Daniel Boone and powerhouse Riverdale of Murfreesboro.

Then the Lady Blue Devils battled through the Mountain 7 District, arguably the strongest Class 2 district in the state.

The Mountain 7 and its predecessor, the Clinch Mountain District, have produced the Class 2 state champion for seven straight years and had a team in the state championship game for the last nine years.

“People look at our record and think, ‘Man, they should not be here,’ ” Houseright said. “But records are deceiving and we don’t try to soften up our schedule. We try to toughen it up because records don’t matter when it comes down to it.”

Emily Weakly finished with 25 points and eight rebounds to lead Luray, while Jaidya McClung netted 14 and Brynlee Burrill added 12.

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