JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- In our new digital series ‘High School Standouts,’ Digital Sports Reporter Michael Epps features local athletes with incredible talent, hoping to take that talent to the next level.
These are athletes that stand out both on and off the field.
This week’s High School Standout is Sarah Thompson, junior on the Gate City girls basketball team.
Gate City has become a familiar name at the Virginia High School basketball state championships.
“At the end of the day it’s a game played by young men and young ladies, we all celebrate the victories and think about the losses,” Gate City boys basketball head coach Scott Vermillion said.
That was certainly the case this past weekend, with the girls and boys teams both playing in state title games.
“They came with a different kind of mindset, a different kind of energy these last three games and that’s why they’re sitting here right now,” Gate City girls basketball head coach Kelly Houseright said.
By the way, this is a team with 11 losses reaching the state finals.
“People look at our record and think ‘they should not be there’ but records are deceiving and we don’t try to soften up our schedule we try to toughen it up because records don’t really matter when it comes down to it,” Houseright said.
But when you watched the game, you couldn’t tell; this team plays with confidence.
“It was a great game, I mean the first half it was nip and tuck,” Houseright said.
The Lady Blue Devils had a four point lead at halftime, and got a standout performance from junior Sarah Thompson.
“Ever since I was little I dreamed of being here everybody has on the team and just to be able to come off and see the atmosphere and see the fans into it it gives you chills,” Thompson said.
“I didn’t want them to lose our focus it was still early you know there was still a lot of the game left to play but it definitely helped our momentum,” Houseright said.
After putting up 19 points and grabbing eight rebounds, the Lady Blue Devils got to celebrate.
“It honestly feels surreal right now like I can’t believe that we actually did it,” Gate City girls basketball senior Kendal Quillen said.
“It feels amazing like nobody had faith in us and nobody thought that we could actually do it and we proved them wrong and we brought this one home,” Gate City girls basketball sophomore Macey Mullins said
“Nobody thought we could be here but we believed in ourselves and we believed in the process and trusted the process and this is where it got us and I know everyone on the team dreamed of being here and to think that we did it it’s an amazing feeling and I’m proud of my team,” Thompson said.
Thompson is the leading scorer on this team, showed tremendous leadership on and off the court, and the scary thought is she’s only a junior.
“You know we work hard and we do it for our seniors but we play as a family and we do it for everybody and coach and coach Barnes they put a lot of time into it and just to win it for them it’s very special,” Thompson said.
The Boys team lost a tough game against John Marshall, but Gate City was lucky to have even been able to play both its games.
In the middle of the Gate City games, the VHSL canceled the rest of Thursday’s and all of Friday and Saturday’s title games due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.
Classes 1 and 3-6 were deemed co-champions, so the Blue Devils were happy they at least got to play in the final game.
“It was a little bit weird when we were getting ready and we hear that 3, 4, 5, and 6 are canceled we’re like that’s kind of strange but I talked to our assistants we were like ‘what do y’all think’ and one said I’d rather go home state champion or runner-up, forget this co-champ stuff,” Vermillion said.
“Yeah I didn’t want Radford to be my last game I wanted to play here at the Seigal Center and try to finish off like we did in 2018 but yeah I wanted to play for sure,” Gate City boys basketball senior Bradley Dean said.
And the Lady Blue Devils got to bring a trophy home, something Thompson those girls will never forget.
“It’s a great experience and we’re thankful to be here I don’t think people understand how hard it is to get here these kids just trusted the process and never really got down on themselves and down on each other and tha’ts just a testament to the kind of kids that they are, they’re a great group of kids,” Houseright said.
Follow this series throughout the year as WJHL’s Michael Epps finds the High School Standout every week on WJHL.com.