War of attrition
Graham (63) Vs. Gate City (66)
Feb 27, 2016
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
WISE, Va. — In Saturday’s VHSL 2A West consolation game, Graham hammered Gate City on the boards from the outset. The G-Men shot 46.2 percent from the field to the Blue Devils’ 33.3 percent.
Gate City’s numbers on the free throw line was the stat that mattered in the end.
Blue Devils freshman Zac Ervin scored 31 points, including a 20-for-23 showing at the foul line, and Gate City held off Graham 66-63 in the Prior Center at Virginia-Wise.
“If he doesn’t hit his free throws, we don’t win. And thank goodness he did. He has all year. He shoots 86 or 87 percent (from the line),” said Blue Devils head coach Scott Vermillion, whose team recovered from a heartbreaking 65-64 loss to defending state champ Martinsville in Friday’s semifinal nightcap.
According to the VHSL’s record book, Ervin’s 20 free throws are the third-highest total for a single game on record.
“Free throws are such a huge part of the game. Every chance I can get, I try to improve my free throw shooting. It’s all about consistency. Shooting the same shot,” said Ervin, who shot 5-for-9 from the field, including 1-for-3 outside the arc. He also pulled down seven rebounds.
In the context of Saturday’s contest, the 10 free throws Ervin drained in the final frame were more meaningful than his game total. With the G-Men scrambling to regain the lead, the youngster did a superb job getting himself to the line to hit 10-of-12 in the fourth quarter.
Gate City was 31-for-38 at the free throw line as a team. Graham shot 14-for-25 at the charity stripe.
“I thought (Ervin) was big from the foul line. He’s a phenomenal shooter,” said G-Men head coach Glynn Carlock, Jr., whose squad was looking to redeem Friday’s 64-41 loss to Dan River.
The consolation showdown turned into a hard-fought war of attrition late in the game.
In the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils (21-4) lost starters Mac McClung and Hunter Collier to their fifth fouls. Starter John-Reed Barnes picked up his fourth seconds before Ervin sank his final two freebies with 25.4 seconds showing for what would prove the final margin.
The foul that resulted in Ervin’s last trip to the line was the fifth for Roman Workman, who led the G-Men with 20 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and three steals. Workman was the third Graham player to foul out over the final three minutes. Thomas Clarke fouled out with 2:43 on the clock. Nick Morgan hit two free throws to give Graham a short-lived 62-61 lead at 1:31 and fouled out seconds later.
Graham (18-5) out-rebounded Gate City 33-22 for the game and used its edge on the boards to engineer three consecutive 3-point shot attempts on its final possession of the game.
The successive shots by Darrin Martin, Emil Curto and finally, Martin, refused to fall. There would be no overtime.
“This is like the third time we’ve played (Graham) in four or five years. They’re a tough team,” said Vermillion, whose team came back from trailing by 11 points midway through the third period.
“Coach Carlock has built a winner over at Bluefield. Any time you play them it’s going to be a battle. And that’s what it came down to. Fortunately we made one more play than they did,” Vermillion said.
Chandler Cooper scored 10 points, had two steals and distributed five assists for Graham, which led 15-13 after the first quarter and took a 25-21 lead to intermission.
Martin scored six of his 10 total points in the second period, also coming up with two of his five rebounds in that span and disrupting a Gate City possession with a key deflection.
“I thought we did pretty well early on establishing a lead. I thought we handled the game atmosphere early on a lot better than they did but they played later and had an emotional game last night. We should have capitalized on it,” said Carlock.
“Coach Vermillion does a fantastic job. They had a great team.”
Collier only scored three points the entire game for the Blue Devils, but gave Gate City a psychological lift with a freakish tip-in that tied the game at 41 as the third quarter ended.
Barnes scored 13 for Gate City, including a trifecta at the start of the fourth that catapulted Gate City into the lead for most of the remainder of the game.
Graham will travel to face either George Mason or Bluestone in the 2A state quarterfinals either Friday or Saturday.
Despite this weekend’s losses, Graham remains in the 2A Elite Eight. Carlock sees no reason why the G-Men can’t overcome the road and fight their way into the VHSL Final Four at the Siegel Center in Richmond.
“I think our West bracket is strong. I do. I think 2A West is the strong side of the bracket. I think we’ve got some competitive teams down here that can do some things and hopefully we’ll fare well next week,” Carlock said.

At the Prior Center, Virginia-Wise
GATE CITY (21-4)
Hunter Collier 1 1-2 3, John-Reed Barnes 3 4-4 13, Mac McClung 2 4-5 9, Zac Ervin 5 20-23 31, Nick Qualls 3 1-2 7, Chandler Pendleton 0 1-2 1, Hunter Jones 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 31-38 66.
GRAHAM (18-5)
Roman Workman 7 6-8 20, Tanner Miller 2 0-5 4, Chandler Cooper 3 4-8 10, Nic Morgan 1 4-4 6, Thomas Clarke 0 0-0 0, Emil Curto 0 0-0 0, Cameron Allen 3 0-0 7, Darrin Martin 5 0-0 10, Garrett Dalton 3 0-0 6. Totals 24 14-25 63.
Gate City.....................13 8 20 25 — 66
Graham.......................15 12 14 22 — 63
3-point goals: Gate City 5-15 (Barnes 3-6, McClung 1-3, Ervin 1-2, Qualls 0-2, Jones 0-2). Graham 1-12 (Cooper 0-2, Morgan 0-3, Curto 0-1, Allen 1-4, Martin 0-2), Fouled out: McClung, Collier, Clarke, Morgan, Workman).
Nightly Roundup
Game Scoreboard
Graham 15 12 14 22 0 63
Gate City 13 8 20 25 0 66
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