Gators pick up another win in key road stretch
The Gateway varsity boys basketball team played eight of its first 10 games — including five of its first six Section 2-AAAA contests — in familiar surroundings at the Furrie Sports Complex.
Gators head coach Mitch Adams knew at that time the coin would flip, and his team would have to get the job done on the road down the stretch.
Gateway is in the midst of a five-game road march that continues Friday at rival Plum and concludes on Sunday against Upper St. Clair at the Pittsburgh Basketball Classic at La Roche College.
After having to swallow a tough 42-40 loss at McKeesport on Jan. 15 — its first and only loss in section so far — Gateway bounced back with two of its highest point totals this season.
The Gators routed Penn Hills, 92-56, on Friday and took care of business, 79-61, at Woodland Hills on Tuesday.
“Any time you win on the road, it is important,” Adams said.
“We were really focused in the first half (against the Wolverines), and it was evident in our 23-point lead. We lost focus coming out of the locker room at the start of the second half. Why? I don't know.”
Adams said he was happy with the defensive effort in the first quarter.
Woodland Hills turned the ball over 13 times over the first eight minutes.
Gateway missed opportunities to convert on some of the turnovers, but it still was able to build a 13-4 lead at the end of one.
The Gators turned on the offensive jets in the second quarter and outscored Woodland Hills, 29-15, to take a 42-19 lead at the break.
Gateway committed only four turnovers in the first half and finished the game with 11 giveaways.
Both teams racked up a lot of fouls throughout the game, and it translated into numerous trips to the free-throw line.
Woodland Hills went 16 for 22 from the line in the second half and outscored Gateway 42-37 over the final 16 minutes of play, but the deficit was too much for the Wolverines to overcome.”
“We played good defense in the first half but just didn't have the same defensive intensity in the second half,” Adams said.
“I wasn't happy with it. Our thought process at both ends of the court was crazy at times, and I'm not used to that. But it's good to get the win, and now we have to get ready for Plum on Friday. That's the big one.”
Four players reached double figures in scoring for Gateway against Woodland Hills, as junior Delvon Randall led the way with 18 points. Seniors D.J. Boyce and Deon Cottrell-Baker had 12 and 11 points, respectively, while sophomore Daylon Harris tallied 10.
Gateway now is 8-1 in the section with five games remaining, and McKeesport, Fox Chapel and Pittsburgh Central Catholic all are 7-2 and tied for second.
The top four teams make the WPIAL playoffs from the section, and Plum is fighting to stay alive at 4-5.
The Mustangs lost at McKeesport on Tuesday, 44-30.
“These are the kind of games that make or break you,” Adams said.
Adams knows that Plum is a dangerous team that will be fighting to stay in the playoff hunt.
The first game at Gateway on Dec. 21 went down to the wire. Junior Shomari Thomas nailed a jumper from the right wing at the buzzer to give the Gators a 38-36 victory.
Gateway 92, Penn Hills 56
The Gators hadn't scored that many points in a single game in well over a decade, and the total surpassed the 91 scored in a 2010 WPIAL first-round playoff victory over Norwin.
Five players hit for double figures, led by Cottrell-Baker's 21.
Thomas added 18, while Harris and junior Tommy Kromka had 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Randall contributed 11 for the Gators, who completed the season sweep of the Indians.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.