Gateway opens with McDowell
Gateway head coach Cornelius Nesbit gave his players a couple of days off after the 36-28 WPIAL Quad-A semifinal loss to Bethel Park on Feb. 26.
He wanted them to clear their head after a hectic journey from the end of the regular season through the three-game stretch in the WPIAL playoffs.
The time off, Nesbit added, also helped the coaches look at some film and develop a game plan as the Gators get set for their shot at the PIAA playoffs, which begin Friday.
“When we got back to practice, we watched film of the Bethel Park game, and we needed to see where we made our mistakes and what we can do to fix them,” Nesbit said.
“To win a state champ- ionship, you're going to play a lot of good teams like Bethel Park.”
Gateway will travel to Erie on Friday to take on District 10 champion McDowell in the first round of the state playoffs.
The game will be at 5 p.m. at Gannon University.
Nesbit said he took in Saturday's WPIAL champ- ionship game between Bethel Park and Chartiers Valley at Duquesne University's A.J. Palumbo Center.
The Black Hawks upended the Colts for the title to give Gateway the No. 3 seed from the WPIAL to the PIAA playoffs.
“We wanted to see Chartiers Valley in person because they could be a second-round opponent for us,” Nesbit said.
The winner between Gateway and McDowell will face the winner of Chartiers Valley and Allderdice from the City League in the next round on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
Nesbit said it was a bittersweet feeling to see Bethel Park win the title.
“On one hand, we lost to the eventual WPIAL champion,” Nesbit said.
“At the same time, we felt we were good enough to be there and good enough to hoist the championship trophy.”
McDowell enters the state tournament with a 13-10 record, and the Trojans beat Erie Central, 49-26, for the District 10 title on Saturday.
Gateway and McDowell met in the state playoffs in 2009, and McDowell won that game, 64-37, before falling to eventual state champion Mt. Lebanon in the next round.
“We watched their win in the District 10 champ- ionship game, and they are a team that will full-court man-to-man pressure you,” Nesbit said.
“We have to be able to handle the pressure. They are a well-coached team that goes about eight (players) deep. We throw out the records when you get to the state tournaments, because on any given night, you can be beat.”
Nesbit said his players understand the magnitude of games in the state playoffs.
“We understand it is one and done, and for our four seniors, every game could be their last game,” Nesbit said.
“We know it's not like the WPIAL semifinals that when we lost there, we still knew the season was alive. There is no next game if we don't take care of business.”
Gateway goes into the game against McDowell with a 20-5 overall record.
The Gators won five in a row, including a state-playoff-clinching 50-43 victory over North Allegheny in the WPIAL quarterfinals, before the eight-point setback to Bethel Park.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.