Lady Indians face hoops rematch against Gators on Friday
The second half of the Section 2-AAAA slate begins Friday, and for the Gateway varsity girls basketball team, the opportunity is in front of it to turn around some tough outcomes.
That includes the chance to avenge a close 38-35 loss to Penn Hills in the section opener in mid December.
The teams meet Friday at 6 p.m. at Penn Hills High School.
Senior Jada Epps scored 15 points in the first meeting, but Desiree Oliver and Jade Ely countered with 14 and 13 points, respectively, in the three-point victory for the Indians.
“It's a great opportunity going into the second half of the season to have the chance to go into the playoffs on a roll,” Gateway head coach Cornelius Nesbit said. “We know we are going to get everyone's best shot because of what we've accomplished. We haven't been as consistent as we would've liked. We have to be better with that.”
Gateway hoped to even up its section record Tuesday against McKeesport in a section game that was to be completed past the deadline for this week's edition.
The Gators cruised to wins over Franklin Regional and Woodland Hills in the first half but dropped a tough 42-36 game at Plum on Dec. 20 and came up short against section leader Fox Chapel, 47-35, last week.
“I don't think our kids were focused and ready to play (Fox Chapel). We didn't put our best effort on the floor, and that's my fault,” Nesbit said. “At the same time, Fox Chapel also played really well.”
Nesbit said the loss to Fox Chapel made everyone look in the mirror, from the coaches to the players.
“Jada, (junior) Morgan (Hainsey) and the other leaders really recognized they didn't play their best against Fox Chapel,” Nesbit said. “My challenge to them was that winners respond and how were they going to respond against a very good basketball team in Upper St. Clair.”
The Gators and Panthers met Saturday in the third game of the three-game Gateway Hoops Fest at the Furrie Sports Complex.
Upper St. Clair came into the game with a 9-1 record and had won six straight since a loss to WPIAL power Bethel Park in section play in December.
The Gators trailed by eight at halftime but cut the Panthers lead to one with a big third quarter and won it down the stretch.
“Upper St. Clair has some really good shooters. All five shooters can hit the 3-pointer,” Nesbit said.
“Three of them play AAU basketball for me, so we were pretty familiar with how they play. They also knew what I as a coach like to do with my team.”
Epps had a game-best 17, while juniors London Wade and Alexis Young added 13 and 11 points, respectively.
“Early on, they had the upper hand and were pretty aggressive. It took us a while to settle down,” Nesbit said.
“We missed a lot of shots early on. After a while, we were able to apply our pressure and our press, and then the game started to shift in our favor in that third quarter.”
Nesbit said he was pleased with the three games overall, including the first game between WPIAL powers Bishop Canevin and Shaler.
The squads came in with a combined record of 19-4, and Bishop Canevin outscored Shaler, 27-22, in the second half to rally for a 44-43 win.
District 6's Hollidaysburg traveled west to Monroeville and upended District 10's Kennedy Catholic, 52-39, in the second game.
“You had six quality basketball teams, and every game was competitive,” Nesbit said.
“It was a pretty good crowd for high school girls basketball. All the teams travel well. It made for a great day of basketball.”
The win for Gateway put it at 6-4 overall heading into this week.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825, at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.
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