Gateway squads sweep section doubleheader
Something had to give when the Gateway and Fox Chapel varsity boys and girls basketball teams met in a pair of key Section 2-AAAA matchups Tuesday evening at Gateway's Furrie Sports Complex.
All four teams were undefeated in section play at 4-0.
When the dust settled, both Gateway squads stood tall at the top of the section at 5-0.
Gateway girls roll past Foxes
Gateway wanted to make a statement on its home court, and the defense helped get the job done in a 47-26 victory.
“We wanted to get ahead in the standings, and we had a lot of motivation,” said junior Katey Wilson, who scored a game-best 12 points and pulled down seven rebounds.
“We are playing with a lot of confidence, but we have to keep it in check and continue to play well as a team. We have to continue to work hard.”
The Gators forced 24 Fox Chapel turnovers and limited the Foxes to their lowest point total of the season.
Fox Chapel's previous low-point total this season was 33, and that came in a 33-24 victory over Hampton at the season-opening Seneca Valley Tournament.
“The girls realize the thing that is going to keep us winning basketball games is playing good team defense,” Gateway head coach Cornelius Nesbit said.
“We're going to miss shots and turn the ball over from time to time, but the key is their confidence in knowing they can get stops. It's a collective group effort.”
Fox Chapel star Erin Mathias, a 6-foot-3 junior forward, was limited to eight points — nearly half her season average — by a collective effort that included Wilson, sophomore Morgan Hainsey and senior Maria Taylor.
She scored only two points in the third quarter and was shut out in the final stanza.
Mathias, a Duke University recruit, finished with 12 rebounds and eight blocks.
“We needed to make sure we knew where she was all the time,” Nesbit said.
“We wanted to get physical with her and see if we could wear her out. We also had the size to at least contest a lot of her shots and see if she would miss.”
Gateway started to pull away with a 14-6 advantage in the third quarter.
The Gators held Fox Chapel to only two points in the fourth.
Gateway got balanced scoring, as senior Chelsea Richardson and Taylor joined Wilson in double figures with 11 and 10 points respectively.
Junior Jada Epps was right behind them with eight points.
Gateway will step away from section play Friday with a nonsection home game against Keystone Oaks at 6 p.m.
The Gators will take on Bishop Canevin on Saturday at 6 p.m. in the final game of the Gateway Hoops Classic at the Furrie Sports Complex.
The five-game day of basketball begins with Monessen against Westinghouse at noon, followed by Upper St. Clair and Kennedy Catholic at 1:30 p.m.
Shaler will meet Deer Lakes at 3, and Seton-LaSalle will face Hollidaysburg at 4:30.
“We were fortunate enough to get a number of ranked teams and some quality teams,” Nesbit said.
“There are going to be some interesting matchups. The A and AA teams are very good, and they will give the Quad-A teams a battle. I think we're going to have a great day of basketball.”
Gateway will shoot for 6-0 in section play on Tuesday at McKeesport. Game time is 6 p.m., and it is part of another varsity doubleheader.
Gators boys hang on
The Gators have won their last three section games by a combined seven points.
On Dec. 21, Gateway got a buzzer-beater from junior Shomari Thomas to beat Plum, 38-36, and on Friday, the Gators upended Franklin Regional, 59-56, as the Panthers missed a 3-point attempt as time expired.
Tuesday's 40-38 victory over Fox Chapel wasn't decided until Foxes junior Matt D'Amico's open 3-point attempt from the right wing at the buzzer hit the rim and fell away.
“We called man to man defensively,” Gateway head coach Mitch Adams said.
“That's our bread and butter with our quickness and athleticism.”
Gateway led by as much as nine — 21-12 — in the second quarter, but the Foxes chipped away while the Gators went cold offensively.
Gateway went into the break ahead 21-18, and the game remained close throughout the second half.
The Gators and Foxes each turned the ball over twice in the final 90 seconds, and Gateway's final turnover with 12 seconds left set up Fox Chapel's final attempt to win it.
“It seems like every game is like that for us,” Gateway head coach Mitch Adams said.
“Until we learn to knock down free throws and stop turning the ball over, that's what it's going to be like.”
Gateway turned the ball over 19 times in the game and finished 4 of 11 from the foul line.
“We played hard,” Adams said. “Hopefully, we can clean up these mistakes and get ready to go.”
Gateway had the rebounding advantage throughout the evening.
Junior forward Tommy Kromka led the Gators with 12 rebounds, including five in the fourth quarter alone.
He also scored eight of Gateway's 10 points in the final period and finished with 10 points for the game.
His two free throws with 3:45 to play in regulation gave Gateway a 40-36 advantage, and they proved to be the deciding points.
“We know we have to take care of some things like turnovers and free-throw shooting, but it feels really good to still be undefeated in the section,” Kromka said.
Senior point guard D.J. Boyce led all Gators scorers with 11 points, and he added seven rebounds.
Senior Deon Cottrell-Baker finished with nine points and nine rebounds.
D'Amico led all scorers with 18 points.
Gateway improved to 8-1 overall.
The Gators hope to remain undefeated in section play Friday evening as they face Pittsburgh Central Catholic at the Furrie Sports Complex.
Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.