Chartiers Valley tops Gateway in PIAA 2nd round
With 2:30 remaining in the third quarter of Tuesday's PIAA Quad-A second-round girls basketball game at Hempfield High School, Chartiers Valley led Gateway, 37-21, and appeared ready to pull away.
However, the Gators still had life and battled back through the first half of the fourth quarter.
With exactly four minutes to play in regulation, Gateway had cut the deficit to three at 40-37.
But in the end, Chartiers Valley made the plays it needed to down the stretch, including a number of key conversions from the foul line, to come away with a 53-42 victory.
“I told the girls after the game I wouldn't want to coach any other team in the WPIAL,” Gateway head coach Cornelius Nesbit said.
“It was so much fun just to go to practice with them and to go to battle in games. I wouldn't trade anything in the world for this experience.”
Gateway, which captured its third straight section title and reached the WPIAL semifinals, concluded its season at 20-6.
The Gators went 1-1 in the PIAA playoffs, as they began the state tournament with a 50-49 victory over Erie McDowell last Friday.
“This feeling stinks right now,” Nesbit said.
“They are disappointed, but the feeling of disappointment means you have high expectations. People may say we overachieved, but I don't think that at all. I believe this group did exactly what they set out to do and expected to do.”
Chartiers Valley improved to 21-7 and will face Mt. Lebanon in the state quarterfinals on Friday.
The Colts and Blue Devils met in the WPIAL semifinals, and Chartiers Valley pulled out a 31-27 victory.
Chartiers Valley played Tuesday's game without its leading scorer — senior guard Mariah Wells — who missed the game because of a foot injury.
Nesbit said his team really showed a lot of heart and character to come back from the 16-point deficit in the second half and to not give up when faced with a similar deficit in the first half.
In the first three minutes of the game and the final three minutes of the first half, Gateway outscored Chartiers Valley, 10-2.
In between, the Colts used a 23-3 run to open a 23-7 lead.
“The girls prided themselves on never quitting, no matter what happened in a game,” Nesbit said.
“We felt we had enough talent to come back, make this a ball game and even take the lead. But Chartiers Valley is a good basketball team, and they were able to capitalize on a couple of our mistakes down the stretch. They made more plays than we did at the end of the day. It wasn't for lack of effort on our part.”
Gateway missed some chances at the free-throw line.
The Gators were 8 of 20 from the foul line, including a 3-for-8 mark in the fourth quarter.
Chartiers Valley was 8 of 11 from the line in the fourth quarter and 18 of 24 for the game.
Gateway junior Katey Wilson finished with a team-best 15 points. The Gators used a 12-0 run between the third and fourth quarters as part of the second-half comeback, and Wilson scored 10 of the 12 points in the run.
Fellow junior Jada Epps added 12 points, with 10 coming in the second half.
Tuesday's game was the final one in a Gateway uniform for seniors Maria Taylor, Chelsea Richardson, Roni Kuster and Lauren Henderson.
“They did everything I ever asked them to do,” Nesbit said.
“They dealt with everything during the 2-18 season as freshmen. They were determined to become great. This group won section titles three out of four years. There was only one other team in Gateway history that was able to do that. They accomplished a lot, and at the end of a tough game like this, they don't see it right away. Later on, they will be able to look back and see what they have accomplished.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412- 388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.