GATE CITY, Va. – Despite an unusually tough first half, Mac McClung finally got The Answer and Gate City's boys basketball team kept motoring on Wednesday.
Ripping a 22-foot jumper with 6:16 remaining, McClung erased an NBA legend and put his own name in the VHSL record book, all while leading Gate City to an 80-43 rout of Lebanon in opening-round play of the Region 2D tournament.
The 6-foot-2 showstopper finished the evening with 41 points, eclipsing Virginia's single-season scoring mark that was set 25 years ago by Allen Iverson – a.k.a. “The Answer” – at Bethel High School in Hampton.
A 38-point-per-game scorer who is now 163 points shy of equaling the state's career scoring record with a possibility of five games remaining, McClung tried to put the achievement in perspective.
“I think this is the best community in high school sports,” the Georgetown signee said. “It's really different and I'm so grateful to have grown up here and to have gotten to play in this kind of atmosphere.
“The record doesn't mean a whole lot. I just want to win a state championship and be the first ones to do it for Gate City.”
McClung, who made 13 of 28 floor attempts all told and 5 of 14 of his 3-point tries to go along with two dunks, now has 958 points this season and 2,607 in his career – fourth-best in VHSL history.
But this was not an easy outing for McClung, who missed seven of 10 first-half shots while the Blue Devils struggled to a mere 30-16 advantage at intermission.
“It was a different kind of night for sure,” GC coach Scott Vermillion said. “I mean, we were all aware of the record and it was just something else to deal with ... I don't mean that in a negative way, but it was just an unusual environment.
“It being the last game that these seniors would ever play here, it being a regional game where the loser would go home, Mac chasing the record – all that stuff together I think kind of kept us from our usual focus out there.”
Lebanon (16-10) had a chance early to open some eyes, but the Pioneers had six turnovers and missed six of their first eight free throws as Gate City led only 9-6 after eight minutes.
“We make some free throws there and we're right in it,” Lebanon coach Brian Hooker said. “But scoring the ball has been our achilles heel all season.”
McClung, with 13 points in the third quarter, warmed up from the perimeter in the second half and the game got out of hand.
As McClung netted 10 quick points to start the fourth – including the record breaker – and Zac Ervin and Bradley Dean each scored two buckets, Gate City quickly turned in a 23-7 spurt to make it a 75-37 game with three minutes to play.
“Once we broke loose a little then we looked more like ourselves,” said Vermillion, who got 18 points from Ervin and 15 from Dean. “Mac was really bothered by this being his last game here – I could see it on his face all day. He pressed early and maybe shot too quick, but he smoothed out in the second half.
“He is aware and he realizes it may never be like this for him or any of the rest of us for that matter. He loves this place and it was a sad day for him.”
Gate City now moves on to Friday's 8:30 p.m. semifinal at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise against upstart Union, which upset Grayson County last night.
Lebanon, which received 10 points each from Sage Potts and A.J. Bruck, finished its season with a 16-10 record.
“They're good and they really back these kids down here,” Hooker said. “There aren't many teams, especially at a public school, that has two Division I talents plus another kid who's going to play collegiately at some level.”