McKeesport boys basketball team keeps finding ways to win
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It started with JaQuan Davidson transferring to Elizabeth Forward.
Then, starting guard William Gadson got injured.
If that wasn't enough, 6-foot-6 senior forward Daryn Simmons, who is averaging 21 points for McKeesport's boys basketball team, injured his kneecap during the final moments of Sunday's practice. He will be out of the lineup a significant amount of time.
And coach Corey Gadson's reaction to all this?
“As Mike Tomlin says, next man up,” Gadson said.
That approach has worked wonders for Gadson and the Tigers
McKeesport won its seventh consecutive game Tuesday at Neenie Campbell Gymnasium with a 64-55 win over Franklin Regional to remain in a three-way tie for second place in the competitive Section 2-AAAA race.
Imagine if Gadson had his full arsenal of players?
“You know what it's like in high school: You just play the cards you are dealt,” Gadson said.
Against Franklin Regional (6-6, 1-4), the Tigers (8-2, 4-1) held a three-of-a-kind when it came to their guard play.
Jordon Payne scored 13, Carlitto Acie 12 and Damonje Walker 11 as the Tigers hit eight 3-pointers, including three each by Walker and Payne.
“We have been shooting the ball well recently,” Acie said. “Actually, during this winning streak, we have shot very well.”
Gadson had nothing by praise for his trio of guards.
“The guards played well,” Gadson said. “We have been trying to make a concise effort of taking care of the ball and keeping us in our sets. We have been getting better at that.”
McKeesport turned the ball over only four times in the first half and shot 65 percent from the floor, but it was unable to pull away from the Panthers because of the play of 6-2 forward Nate Hlozek, who scored 12 of his game-high 21 points in the opening quarter as the Panthers led, 22-18, after one period.
“(Hlozek) was giving us fits,” Gadson said.
Gadson switched from man to zone, and Hlozek's effectiveness waned — he didn't attempt a shot the entire second quarter and was held scoreless for nearly 13 minutes.
“They went away from him for a while,” Gadson said. “We went to zone a little bit, so maybe that's what happened. They really don't look for him in the zone, but in the man, he can create his own shot.”
McKeesport opened up a 44-29 lead while Hlozek was being shut down by a number of McKeesport players, including Acie.
“I tried to deny him the ball a little more,” Acie said.
Hlozek got loose late in the third and hit a pair of 3-pointers within a span of a minute, followed by five points by Matt Fisch to get the Panthers back in the game. They trailed, 46-40, at the end of the third quarter.
Franklin Regional was able to get to within 51-48 midway through the fourth quarter, but a hoop by Damonje Walker off a steal by Acie followed by a 3-pointer by Payne a minute later extended the Tigers' lead to 56-48.
McKeesport iced the game by hitting 6 of 8 from the free-throw line down the stretch.
“Last year at this time, maybe we wouldn't have gotten back into the game when we trailed early,” Gadson said. “Or maybe earlier in this season we might not have been able to know how to finish the game. Hopefully, we are getting better.”
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