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Blue Devils TKO ’Toppers

Jeff Birchfield • Jan 13, 2019 at 1:55 AM

GATE CITY — Zac Ervin and Bradley Dean were more than a 1-2 punch Saturday night. They were like a pair of Gate City haymakers that kept hitting Science Hill over and over.

The duo combined for 79 points in the Blue Devils’ 93-69 home romp over the Hilltoppers in an interstate matchup of basketball powers.

Ervin, a 6-foot-4 Wofford commit who also is currently committed to winning each time out at the high school level, had a game-high 40 points. Dean finished with 39 and is now just six shy of 1,000 points for his high school career.

Hitting 32 of 58 of their shots from the field (58 percent), the defending VHSL Class 2 champion Blue Devils (12-2) led 29-16 at the end of one quarter and 50-33 at the half.

“We just went to the right spots and broke their press,” Ervin said. “We were knocking down shots tonight and that was big. Tonight they were falling and it made it a lot easier.

“Brad’s been playing great of late. If we both can play at a high level, we’re tough to stop.”

That certainly was the case Saturday night. Dean said when defenses focus on Ervin, they leave him with plenty of scoring opportunities.

“They were doubling Zac and he draws so much attention with his scoring ability,” Dean said. “They left me one on one. We executed well and our teammates got in open spots, too.

“We put a lot of work into this and we’ve been at this level for a while, so we try to improve every game.”

Seven Gate City players ended with one basket each to round out the scoring.

“Zac and Brad shot the ball well and gave us a cushion,” Gate City coach Scott Vermillion said. “We were able to get some drive-bys. Brad really attacked the basket in the first half and that ended up being a difference.”

Hunter Phillips had 12 points for Science Hill (10-11), Drew Morrison contributed 11 points and six rebounds and Jake Matherne added 10 points.

“I thought we had great effort,” Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip said. “We’re just playing a really good team with a couple of outstanding basketball players.”

After the tough loss, the Hilltoppers will look to get back on track in Big 7 Conference play Tuesday night against Cherokee.

“The nonconference schedule has been incredibly difficult for us, but we do that to prepare for conference games,” Cutlip said. “We have a chance to compete for a conference championship still, and we will continue that march Tuesday night.”

ANOTHER DYNAMIC DUO

Sarah Thompson and Jaden Fullen combined for 52 of their team’s 59 points, and the Lady Blue Devils outgunned the Lady Hilltoppers 59-46.

Thompson had a game-high 29 points, including 10 in the final quarter when Science Hill threatened to come back from a double- digit deficit. Fullen was a nightmare matchup on the inside with 23 points and 13 rebounds.

“We were really into the game, making the extra passes and driving to the goal,” Thompson said. “We got them in foul trouble. This was a big win for us, especially after getting beat bad at their place. We just played together and that was good.”

Science Hill fell behind 17-2 at the start and was left fighting uphill the rest of the game. The Lady Hilltoppers’ situation grew worse in the second quarter when guard Symantha Fugate left the game with a leg injury.

Alasia Smith’s 15 points led the Lady ’Toppers. Jeila Greenlee was their next-highest scorer with seven.

“We’ve started slow the last three games and you could see it coming,” Science Hill coach Scottie Whaley said. “Gate City played really hard, a really physical game. We knew it would be a tough environment, a tough game and they took it to us.”

The win marked a 49-point turnaround from the teams’ first meeting, a 56-20 Science Hill victory on Dec. 21.

“We knew if we got off to a slow start, it would be a scenario like when we played them at their place,” Gate City coach Kelly Houseright said. “We challenged them to come out tonight and play like they’re capable of playing.”

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