WISE, Va. — The Devils did it.
Every time the Graham G-Men made a run after a cold-shooting first half, Gate City had an answer, normally in 6-foot-7 Andy Arnold, who scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Blue Devils to a 64-52 Group A Division 2 quarterfinal victory in the sixth of six games on Saturday at the David J. Prior Convocation Center at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.
Gate City (23-5), which won the Region D championship, will play William Monroe in the Division 2 state semifinals on Thursday at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center.
Graham finished its season with a 17-10 record, but do return three starters from the Region C runner-ups.
“We feel good, we just have to come back during the summer and work hard and expect to be in Richmond next year,” said Graham sophomore Colby Hill, who had 19 of his 28 points after the break.
Gate City took control from the start, building an 8-0 lead on a 3 by Luke Ervin and offensive putback from Arnold before the G-Men got on the board on a short jumper by Zach Proffitt with 3:50 on the clock.
Graham never got closer than five points in the opening half, and six in the final period.
“We felt like the beginning of the game was the difference, we spotted them an eight or 10 point lead at the start of the game,” Graham head coach Glynn Carlock Jr. said. “This group did a good job all year of getting out to a 10-point lead on teams and they tried to maintain it the whole game.
“We tried hard to keep that from happening, that was a key thing for us and we spotted them a 10-point lead and that is what the final deficit ended up being, or close to it.”
Gate City took a 29-18 lead into the break, and much like the first half, scored the first eight points of the third quarter, taking a 37-18 advantage on one of three 3s by Nick Bowen with 6:26 on the clock. Bowen also had two 3s in the opening half and finished with 12 points.
“The game plan didn’t play out the way we would have liked to play out, we turned it over too much, but that is the enormity of the game,” said Gate City head coach Scotty Vermillion, who said it took the Blue Devils time to get used to Graham’s mixture of zone and man defenses.
“Overall, I thought we got good shots, we put some runs together offensively and hit some 3s and then defensively I felt like we made it difficult for them to execute their offense.”
While the Blue Devils were 24-for-46 from the field (52.2 percent), the G-Men struggled, making just 30.9 percent (17-55), with nine of Graham’s 17 field goal coming from Hood.
“It was very hard, we didn’t really take it well when they started getting up on us, but then we fought back,” Hood said. “We just fought back a little too late.”
Hood started a memorable second half performance after the 8-0 Gate City surge with a 3. The sophomore point guard connected on five 3s and 19 points, as the G-Men put a scare in the Blue Devils, but still couldn’t get the margin below six.
“He was a heck of a player, there wasn’t much we could do at that point other than just hope he missed and box out and rebound,” said Gate City’s Luke Ervin, who had 14 points for the Blue Devils.
Hood, who had 11 points in the third quarter, hit his second 3 of the period to pull the G-Men to within seven, at 39-32, but the Blue Devils answered with a 6-0 run of their own to take a 45-35 lead with eight minutes to go.
“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well early, it took us a little bit of time to adjust and I thought we did adjust and we had a couple of people that heated up,” Carlock said. “We just have to credit them, they have a very good team, Coach Vermillion does a very good job with them.
“They play hard, but I don’t think there is anybody in our locker room that should leave with their heads held down. I thought they battled hard and the early deficit got us in a hole.”
Graham trimmed it to six, 50-44, on two 3s by Hood and one from Spencer Sheets with 4:45 to go, but the Blue Devils answered again, led by Arnold, who had nine fourth period points, many in transition with open looks after Graham baskets.
“My teammates are great at finding us in transition,” said Arnold, who had a dunk with 1:09 left to give the Blue Devils a 60-50 lead. “I was just trying to stick them in as much as I can and it worked well.”
Gate City also received 10 assists from Dylan Jenkins, many to Arnold, who was 9-for-11 from the field. The Blue Devils outrebounded Graham 39-27 and forced 16 G-Men turnovers.
“(Arnold) run the floor well, Luke Ervin is a fantastic player, he is money from the free throw line and I wish those guys well,” Carlock said. “I think they have a chance to keep winning here.”
Hood was 9-for-22 from the field for the G-Men, including 5-9 from 3-point range to finish with 28 points. He was also 5-for-5 from the free throw line and added four steals.
“I tried to help my team out as much as I could,” Hood said. “Once I started hitting shots they followed me up with the ball, but they got it to me, but all together we had a great team effort tonight.”
Colby Hill had a rare tough shooting night, finishing with 10 points, but did led the G-Men with eight rebounds and six assists. Graham had just four players score, including Sheets with eight and Proffitt tallied six.
Graham does return starters in Hood, Hill and Proffitt, along with Roman Workman off the bench, meaning the future might be bright for the G-Men on the court.
“We hope to have a good year, but players and teams are made in the offseason and we have to have full dedication for our program here for summer … and that is where you get over the hump and you become a better team and you become a close-knit group,” Carlock said.
“We have a close-knit group, but when you lose pieces to the puzzle you have to find people that step in and replace those pieces.
“We have lost some key pieces to our puzzle now and we will be looking for some new fresh faces to fill that void in the next month or so.”
— Contact Brian Woodson at