By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
The Graham G-Men have seen pictures of the Siegel Center at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
One more win and those pictures will come to life.
Graham head coach Glynn Carlock Jr. made a power point presentation prior for his club prior to the season, and it included a caption with the question of where the G-Men wanted to be in March.
Up next were two photos, one of the inside and one of the outside of the Siegel Center, which is where the Group A, Division 2 state semifinals and finals will be held next week.
“We are one game away from that,” Carlock said. “We want to be able to allow ourselves to make that trip to Richmond and get to experience a Final Four. Once you make it anything can happen. We are tickled with where we are and the position we are in, but we are not satisfied.”
Graham (17-9), which rebounded from a 1-4 skid to finish as Region C runner-ups, will face Region C champion Gate City (22-5) in the Group A, Division 2 state quarterfinals today at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m.
The winner will advance to the state semifinals on Thursday at the Siegel Center against either Northumberland or William Monroe.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for their program,” Carlock said. “They have had a lot of success. Coach (Scotty) Vermillion has done a great job with them, I know what to expect from them and we know what we are going into here.
“The great thing is we have had a week to prepare for it. We are going to get in the van and go down there and see how the chips fall.”
What awaits the G-Men at the spacious Prior Convocation Center is a talented collection of Blue Devils, who are led by the guard tandem of Luke Ervin and Dylan Jenkins — who had 35 points in the Region D title game win over Virginia High — and 6-foot-7 Andy Arnold.
“The other seven guys or so are complete defenders,” Carlock said. “They are great defenders, they defend well, athletic kids and they are very skilled ball club and they are very physical...
“They play about 10 people in a rotation, their man-to-man defense, they try to guard you in your face the entire length of the floor. In my opinion we are going to have to box them out and win the rebound battle, that is going to be so key to it.
“They have three players that are extremely capable scorers.”
So does Graham, led by the guard duo of Colby Hill (18.0 ppg), Tony Hood (12.0) and Spencer Sheets (12.0). Zack Proffitt, Marshall Hawley and Roman Workman round out the primary six G-Men that will see the floor.
“There are going to be times when we have to rely on our four-guard lineup and we are going to have to rotate our posts in,” Carlock said. “It is no secret, we play six people consistently and if we can get help from others then that is a bonus.
“At this stage you have to play with what got you here and with who has been successful for you. We feel like those six guys have been the most successful for us and we feel the most comfortable with them.”
Graham will have to make shots, and prepared for the different background as the spacious arena at UVa-Wise by spending a couple of days practicing at the Brushfork Armory.
“Shooting in a gym like that is a different environment, and UVa-Wise’s gym is even bigger,” Carlock said. “I think that will do nothing, but help our shooting and we are going to have to rely on our shooting to get open and when we are open hit the shots.
“We were able to get in two hours of shooting on goals that we are going to be facing similar to at UVa-Wise which is a lot different than you face in a high school gym. I think it makes a big difference to be able to practice in an environment like that.”
Carlock expects the Blue Devils to play fast and physical, with a deep bench, although Arnold’s backup is injured, meaning the G-Men could try to get Arnold in foul trouble.
“On offense they try to do a lot of different things,” Carlock said. “Every phase of the game is going to have to be addressed and is going to have to be planned for because they are very skilled.
“They like to rely on turnovers from their defensive play to get scores also as well. We have to expect aggressive and physical play and we have to use that to our advantage.”
Carlock recalls the last time Graham played Gate City. The G-Men were 22-0, but faced 6-foot-9 point guard Josh Shoemaker — who later played at Wake Forest — and the G-Men covered him with a 5-7 point guard of their own.
“...We almost beat them,” he said. “We were 22-0 that year and they beat us at Gate City.”
The winner visits Richmond to join three other Division 2 teams in the state semifinals next week. The loser goes home.
“I think we have got as good a shot as anybody,” Carlock said.
—Contact Brian Woodson