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Bobcats face hungry, talented Gate City
Radford plays for its third state championship in five seasons today in Richmond.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Radford's Isaiah Phillips (24) gets past Essex defender Lawrence Hill (13) for two points.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Radford's R.J. Jordan (right) shoots past Essex's D.J. Ashlock on Thursday.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
RICHMOND — Gate City lost one high school basketball game to a team from Virginia. Radford lost two.
The three combined losses by the Group A Division 2 teams were to AA postseason teams, one of which was a state runner-up last year.
Either the Blue Devils or Bobcats are going to have to lose one to a team from their own classification.
Should be a good game.
Bobcats coach Rick Cormany expects nothing less when the two square off for an all-Southwest Virginia championship match 5 p.m. Saturday at the Siegel Center.
“I know Gate City is one of the toughest basketball teams around,” he said. “Year in and year out they play hard, they play extremely tough.”
After Radford (27-2) beat outmanned Essex 54-40 in the semifinals Thursday, Cormany had one more thought about the Blue Devils, who at that point were yet to play.
“They are a whole lot hungrier than we are right now.”
Cormany had no reason to change that assertion after Gate City moved to 24-5 with a masterful 73-61 dismantling of William Monroe in the division’s second semifinal later Thursday.
Not much merriment was apparent for the Bobcats in their remarks after the game. Had you not known the score and arrived late for the postgame press conference, you might have thought Radford had lost the game by 14 points instead of won by that margin.
That’s the way it goes for a program that carries the same high expectations into every season. Even for a team that has one senior with significant game experience, just winning ballgames isn’t enough.
Enough style quotient discussion; Radford is going for its third championship in five years. The Bobcats have won 19 games in a row since losing by 10 to Division 4 quarterfinalist Carroll County at the Fort Chiswell tournament Dec. 29. The only other loss was the back end of a split with 2012 Division 3 runner-up Cave Spring.
“I know Coach Cormany and they are a very, very well-coached team,” Gate City coach Scott Vermillion said. “They do a lot of good things. They shoot the ball well, they drive it well, they change up their defensive schemes — you go scout them and you have so much to write down.”
Here’s what the scouting report on the Blue Devils said after they beat William Monroe: played great.
Gate City shot 54.3 percent for the game (25 of 46), 41.7 from 3-point range (5 of 12), made 25 baskets on 17 assists, blocked six shots and made four steals.
Four players reached double-figure scoring, led by Luke Ervin with 22 points and eight rebounds.
Also contributing big was 6-foot-7 center Andy Arnold who had 21 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks, and three assists before fouling out. Point guard Dylan Jenkins had 11 points and eight assists, several of which were way-slick pinpoint deliveries.
Gate City has won 20 consecutive games.
Radford, which owed Essex one after getting pasted 30-0 in the 2009 Division 2 football title game, never was threatened even though its coaches and fans suffered as the Bobcats missed 11 of 23 second-half foul shots after ascending to an 18-point lead. Radford was 15 for 31 from the line for the game.
On the other hand, the Bobcats scored 17 baskets on 10 assists, the feeds coming from six different players. Five players produced 10 steals. In all, 11 players claimed rebounds, 18 at the offensive end, leading to a 38-34 advantage on the backboards.
In Radford’s case, depth is deadly.
“They do a lot of things well,” Vermillion said. “They’re good.”
Practice probably wasn’t a whole lot of fun for the Bobcats at the University of Richmond’s Robins Center on Friday. Josh Little, Radford’s only experienced senior and a veteran of three state tournaments including the last winner in 2011, was anticipating as much.
“We need to get this out of our heads and find any point to build on,” Little said. “There’s nowhere to go but up. What we need to do is go harder than ever, stay with a positive attitude, and be thankful we can play another game.”
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