Saturday’s victory ranked right up there among the biggest, the veteran coach said.
The win was not a state championship. It was not a regional or district championship. Vermillion has all of those.
The victory was not even a regular-season district game or against a big rival.
But the 79-72 win over Sullivan East was big for Vermillion because it came as a result of one of his biggest coaching jobs and his unsung players responding to him and his staff.
The victory was the 63rd home victory in the last 64 games at Gate City Middle School for the Blue Devils (11-4). It was the first during the streak that featured a Gate City squad without a 1,000-point career scorer on the floor.
Gate City played the game without team leader Bradley Dean.
Dean served a one-game suspension Saturday after being ejected from Friday’s game against Union after picking up two technical fouls.
“It’s one of my prouder wins,” Vermillion said. “Yes, we won the state title, which I loved. But honestly, there’s nothing more important than the way these kids think about me and the way I feel about them.
“When it happens like this and you see the fruit of everybody’s labor, it’s really satisfying. It really is.
“We’ve still got a bit of work to do. But Brad is one of the best players around. Put him back in this mix and we’d be pretty good if everybody keeps doing what they’re doing.”
Vermillion said the win was a huge confidence builder for his players, who played the entire game without Dean on the floor.
“It has to be,” the coach said of the confidence boost. “For Andrew Hensley to turn it loose like he did and Eli (Starnes) to become more of a penetrating guard. That relieves the pressure off of (guard) Jon Compton and Brad.”
Hensley led the Blue Devils with 23 points, while Compton and David George added 13 points.
Sullivan East (12-12) kept things close throughout the contest and narrowed Gate City’s lead to 74-72 with 34 seconds left in the game. But the Blue Devils scored the final five points over the final 30 seconds on free throws from Hensley, George and Luke Reed.
Dylan Bartley led a quartet of double-figure scorers for Sullivan East with 18 points. Ethan Bradford and Eric Hare had 17 points each and Clayton Ivester added 10.
GATE CITY’S THOMPSON HAS BIG NIGHT, DESPITE LOSS
Sullivan East (15-9) took 69-65 overtime win over Gate City (8-8) in Saturday’s girls contest.
Despite the loss, the game was a big one for junior Sarah Thompson, who surpassed the 1,000-point mark in her career.
Thompson had a game-high 29 for the Lady Blue Devils.
Her 1,000-point night came in only the 59th game of her career. She missed several games in her freshman season because of a broken wrist.
Thompson knew she was close to the milestone but was surprised when she hit the mark.
“A lot of my friends knew about it and a lot of my family knew about it,” she said. “It was a big goal of mine and I’m glad I achieved it.”
Sullivan East got 21 points from Jenna Hare and 15 each from Riley Nelson and Hayley Grubb in the win, while Emma Aubrey added 11.
Lexi Ervin added 15 points to complement Thompson’s big night for Gate City.