Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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February 26, 2014

Gate City closes out Blue Tornado

GATE CITY, Va. — Richlands’ basketball team expected Gate City’s defense to be coming at it from all directions in Wednesday’s VHSL 2A West quarterfinal game at Gate City.

The Blue Devils’ offense coming from so many different places was the surprising thing.

Gate City had four scorers in double figures with two more only a bucket away and the Blue Devils ran off with a 77-54 win over the Blue Tornado.

“By the time we settled down and played a little ball it was a 30-point game,” said Richlands coach Jody Fuller. “You come down here and get behind by 30 ... I tell you man, it’s over.”

Richlands (9-15) had seen quality pressure defense from Virginia High this season. Even Lebanon came out of its zone to get in the Blues’ grill, Fuller said. But Gate City’s relentless defensive game plan, combined with its highly-conditioned athletes was a different animal.

“All those kids are cut up. They’re in the weightroom. They’re quick. They’re strong. When they get into you, they can lock you down,” the Richlands coach said.

The Blues hit the other end of the floor preoccupied with keeping track of Dylan Jenkins. The Blue Devils senior point guard scored 27 points in Gate City’s last outing, a 72-64 Conference 40 championship win over Virginia High.

Jenkins finished with 12 points, which might’ve at least been a moral victory for the Tornado had the Blue Devils not gotten so many points elsewhere.

Nick Qualls hit three 3-pointers on his way to 11 points for Gate City (19-5) . He contributed two of those perimeter bombs to an explosive 27-point second quarter that put the Blue Devils up 42-16 at the half.

Defensive engineer Caleb Herron finished with 12 points for Gate City. He got a quick steal and easy backcourt layup after a Qualls 3 to prime the pump at the beginning of the whirlwind second period. Herron highlighted his versatility by stroking a pair of rare treys in the third period.

Hunter Collier added 10 points for the Blue Devils. John Reed Barnes and Michael Collier added eight apiece. Barnes also pulled down seven boards. Cody Mays blocked two shots.

“They had a lot of kids step up and hit a lot of shots. For us to win, those kids couldn’t knock down those shots. And they did,” Fuller said.

Ben Brown scored 13 points to pace Richlands. Luke Phillips added 11 points and Cody Fuller contributed nine.

In the fourth quarter, one-armed forward Anthony Austin came off the bench and lifted the Blues’ sagging spirits by hitting a mid-range jumper that brought the entire gym to its feet.

“I’m proud of them. We were one of the final 16 teams still playing. Not many people gave us a chance to be doing that coming out of the conference,” said Fuller. “I’d really liked to have had a better showing tonight. But I’m really proud of those kids.”

RICHLANDS (9-15)

Luke Phillips 4 1-2 11, Herndon 2 0-0 5, Moir 0 0-0 0, Fuller 2 4-4 9, Ratliff 1 0-0 3, Smith 1 0-0 3, McGaffee 0 0-0 0, Ball 2 0-0 4, Ben Brown 3 5-9 13, Johnson 1 4-5 6, Austin 1 0-0 2, Lowe 0 1-2 1. Totals 16 15-22 54

GATE CITY (19-5)

Caleb Herron 5 0-0 12, Mays 2 0-2 5, Pendleton 1 0-1 2, Dylan Jenkins 5 2-2 12, M. Collier 4 0-2 8, Barnes 3 2-2 8, Hass 0 1-4 1, Hunter Collier 3 4-5 10, Baskette 0 0-0 0, Nick Qualls 4 0-0 11, Kinkead 1 0-0 2, Spivey 2 0-0 4, Matlock 1 0-0 2. Totals 31 9-18 77.

Richlands...........................6  10  18 20  —  54

Gate City...........................15  27  19  16  —  77

3-point goals — Richlands 7 (Phillips 2, Herndon, Fuller, Ratliff, Brown 2), Gate City 6 (Herron 2, Mays, Qualls 3).

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