Gators bounce back with home win against FR
The Gateway varsity girls basketball team had a full week to digest last week's one-point upset loss at Woodland Hills.
Friday's section contest at Plum was postponed because of bad weather, so Tuesday's home game with Franklin Regional marked the Gators' return to the court.
Gateway returned to action in a big way with a 69-54 victory over the Panthers and completed the season sweep of their Section 2-AAAA rivals.
“Scrimmaging in practice was fine, but we wanted that live-game situation,” Gateway head coach Cornelius Nesbit said.
“After the first half, we kind of shook the rust off, and the kids really raised their level of play.”
The Gators improved to 8-1 in section play and remained one half game behind Fox Chapel (9-1) in the section standings.
The Foxes defeated Penn Hills, 61-48, Tuesday evening.
Franklin Regional lost its third section game in a row, and the Panthers now are tied with Penn Hills for the fourth and final WPIAL playoff spot from the section at 3-6.
Gateway clinched a playoff spot when it defeated Penn Hills on Jan. 18.
The Gateway win over Franklin Regional benefited Plum, which had the section bye on Tuesday.
The Mustangs, at 6-2, wrapped up a playoff spot with the Panthers' loss.
The Gators held a slim 41-39 lead late in the third quarter, but they ran away with the game down the stretch.
Gateway limited Franklin Regional to only three second-half field goals.
Fifteen of the Panthers' 23 points in the second half came from the foul line.
Franklin Regional's often-potent 3-point shooters struggled at times.
The Panthers were 6 of 20 from beyond the arc, and only two of them came after halftime.
“We did a good job of making sure we communicated and located everybody,” Nesbit said.
“We started to limit them to one shot, and we made them work for their shots. We felt that if we prevented them from getting set and made them move to get a shot, we would be successful defensively.”
The Gators outscored Franklin Regional, 28-15, over the final 10 minutes.
Four Gateway players reached double figures in scoring.
Sophomore Morgan Hainsey led all scorers with 18 points, while senior Chelsea Richardson added 17, including 12 in the first half as the Gators built a 17-14 lead after one quarter and a 37-31 advantage at halftime.
Junior Katie Wilson contributed 14 points and nine rebounds, and fellow junior Jada Epps tallied 12 points.
“We talked a lot this past week about how the loss to Woodland Hills didn't derail any of our goals as far as winning the section,” Nesbit said.
Gateway will attempt to knock off Fox Chapel for the second time as the two section leaders battle at Fox Chapel on Friday at 6 p.m.
The game is the first of a varsity doubleheader between the Foxes and Gators.
The boys teams will square off at 7:30 p.m.
The Gateway girls were dominant against Fox Chapel in the first meeting three weeks ago.
The Gators held the Foxes to their lowest offensive output of the season in the 47-26 victory.
Fox Chapel 6-foot-3 senior standout and Duke recruit Erin Mathias was limited to eight points.
Gateway will play at Plum on Saturday at noon.
The Mustangs, who visit Penn Hills on Friday, have won four games in a row overall and three in a row in conference.
Gateway opened a big lead against Plum in the first half of the Dec. 21 meeting at Gateway High School, but the Mustangs made a charge in the second half before the Gators were able to put the game away, 56-49.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.