Gators get rematch with New Castle
Gateway head coach Mitch Adams knew that after his team suffered an 87-55 loss to New Castle in the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Quad-A playoffs on Feb. 23, a trip to the state playoffs under the follow-the-leader format would mean a rematch with the Red Hurricanes.
The Gators became fans of New Castle, and the top-seed in the Quad-A tournament didn't disappoint.
The Red Hurricanes routed Seneca Valley in the semifinals on Feb. 27.
They capped an undefeated run to the WPIAL championship with a 68-53 win over section rival Hampton on Saturday night at Duquesne University's A.J. Palumbo Center.
Gateway (16-6) and New Castle (25-0) will play Saturday at 3 p.m. at North Allegheny High School.
“We wanted another shot at New Castle,” Adams said.
New Castle won its second straight WPIAL title — it captured the AAA crown with a win over Hampton last year.
The Red Hurricanes have won 51 of their past 55 games against WPIAL opponents dating back to the 2010-11 season.
The only team to beat them last year was Montour in the second round of the state playoffs.
New Castle, like it did against Gateway in the WPIAL quarterfinals, came up big from outside the arc against Hampton.
It set a WPIAL Quad-A championship-game record with 12 3-pointers.
It hit 11 long-range field goals against the Gators.
Adams said the New Castle challenge will be great, and the game plan for the Red Hurricanes, as it is for every contest, will be to make smart decisions, limit turnovers, stay out of foul trouble, take good shots on the offensive end and make foul shots.
Gateway is in the PIAA playoffs for the fourth time in as many seasons.
In 2010, after finishing as runner-up to Mt. Lebanon in the WPIAL playoffs, the Gators opened the PIAA tournament with a 46-43 victory over Allderdice at Peabody High School.
Gateway then stopped District 6 champion Hollidaysburg, 46-37, before falling to North Allegheny in the state quarterfinals.
Two years ago, the Gators, fresh off their WPIAL-title victory over Chartiers Valley, earned a first-round win over District 10 runner-up McDowell before a defeat at the hands of Mt. Lebanon.
Last year, Gateway entered the PIAA playoffs after defending its WPIAL title, and the Gators crushed Seneca Valley, 68-44 in the first round at North Allegheny.
Shaler and standout guard Geno Thorpe then ended Gateway's season, 62-49, at the Palumbo Center.
“The kids know what states is all about,” Adams said. “They will be ready.”
Adams gave his players a couple of days off from practice after the loss to New Castle, and then it was back to work in preparation for Saturday.
“It allowed us to get refreshed, refocused and reorganized,” Adams said.
“It was good for the kids to get a little time off and get away from me. Now, we go from there.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at email@example.com.