Gateway maintains lead in Section 2 race
With four games remaining on its Section 2-AAAA schedule, the Gateway varsity boys basketball team is in control of its own destiny for the title.
A 63-50 victory over Franklin Regional on Tuesday put the Gators at 9-1 in section play, and every other team in the standings has at least two losses.
Gateway plays at Fox Chapel on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in a rematch of a close 40-38 Gators win on Jan. 8.
The Gators then will look for the sweep of Plum on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Plum High School.
The first meeting between the Mustangs and the Gators on Dec. 21 went down to the wire before Gateway pulled out a 38-36 triumph on a last-second shot.
The Gators pay a visit to Pittsburgh Central Catholic on Tuesday before finishing up its section slate at home against McKeesport on senior night Feb. 8.
“Every game from here on out is a big game in this section,” Gateway head coach Mitch Adams said.
“All I know is we've got four left, and we need to win four. If we win four, we control our own destiny. I don't like to rely on others to get the job done for us. We've tried that before, and it's not good.”
Fox Chapel and Pittsburgh Central Catholic both won on Tuesday, and both upped their section records to 9-2.
McKeesport edged Woodland Hills, 73-70, on Tuesday to move to 8-3 in section.
Plum, now 4-6 in section play, lost to Central Catholic on Tuesday, and coupled with McKeesport's win, the Mustangs were eliminated from playoff contention.
McKeesport swept Plum, and the Tigers own the tiebreaker if it would come into play at the end of the section slate.
Gateway entered Tuesday's game with Franklin Regional in search of a positive outcome after what Adams characterized as a frustrating 59-56 loss to Upper St. Clair on Sunday at the Pittsburgh Basketball Classic at La Roche College.
“We didn't play good defense against Upper St. Clair, and they hit those 10 3-pointers,” Adams said.
“We were able to correct that problem.”
Franklin Regional drained four 3-pointers against Gateway, but only one came in the second half.
The Gators countered with five 3-pointers of their own, including a pair of big buckets from behind the arc from senior point guard D.J. Boyce.
Both of Boyce's threes came late in the third quarter and helped Gateway open a 47-38 lead heading into the final stanza.
Gateway turned up the defensive pressure in the fourth quarter and forced eight Franklin Regional turnovers.
“We were able to be athletic tonight,” Adams said.
“There's no secret to our success. We have to play defense and use our athleticism. If we do that, we're going to get our transition game going. We're a much better team when we are in transition.”
Junior Delvon Randall led Gateway with 16 points.
He came out and tallied seven points in the first quarter and finished with two of Gateway's five 3-pointers.
Senior Steven Hartnett had the other 3-pointer.
Junior forward Tommy Kromka scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds against the Panthers.
He tallied 13 of his 15 points in the second half and nine of Gateway's first 12 points in the third quarter as the Gators built a 41-31 lead only a couple of minutes into the frame.
“We knew we needed to put the Upper St. Clair game behind us and get focused for Franklin Regional,” Kromka said.
“You want to win every game you play, but we know how important these section games are. It feels good to still be on top in the section, but there is a lot of work left to do.”
Boyce scored 10 points in the second half and finished with 13.
The game was an emotional one for senior Matt Shorr, who made his season debut Tuesday.
The Gateway student section let out a loud cheer when he entered the game with 1:27 left in the first quarter.
“That was a great moment for me,” Shorr said.
Shorr suffered a torn ACL knee injury in the offseason, and after months of rehab, he returned to the court.
“I was excited and a little nervous,” Shorr said.
“It was my first game back in seven months. Obviously, I'm not 100 percent. I've been practicing for a couple weeks, and I'm in good shape. I just need to get my timing back.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412- 388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.