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Gateway girls begin defense of section title

| Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The WPIAL wastes no time in getting its boys and girls basketball teams into section play, and for the Gateway varsity girls squad, Section 2-AAAA action kicks off Friday at home against Penn Hills.

The 6 p.m. contest is the first of a varsity doubleheader between the Gators and Indians.

The Gateway and Penn Hills boys are slated to play at 7:30 p.m.

The three-time defending section champion Gators — with three starters back in seniors Jada Epps and Katey Wilson and junior Morgan Hainsey — want to get off to a strong start in section against a Penn Hills squad hoping to make its mark early.

“The (Penn Hills) coaching staff has really developed that team,” Nesbit said. “They have young and talented kids who want to be where we have been. We can't let them get comfortable and into their game.”

Penn Hills is coming off a 2012-13 season in which it finished 5-7 in Section 2 — tied with Franklin Regional for the fourth and final playoff spot – and fell to Norwin, 68-56, in the WPIAL first round.

Gateway swept Penn Hills in section play last year, winning the two games by an average of 22 points.

All-section guard Gloria Schifino graduated and now is on the women's basketball team at La Roche College.

Sophomore Jade Ely and junior Marlon Herring both were key contributors last season for Penn Hills, and both are back to form the core of this year's Indians team.

Ely scored 11 points a game last year, while Herring added seven points and 11 rebounds a contest.

Freshman guard Desiree Oliver, Nesbit said, should make a big impact for the Indians this season.

Nesbit said his team is simply excited to have the season start, and it was slated to begin Tuesday evening with a nonsection game against Section 1 power Penn-Trafford.

The game was to be played past the deadline for this week's edition.

The Warriors opened their season with a 55-50 victory in overtime against Plum last Friday, and Penn-Trafford then suffered a 39-35 loss to Shaler on Saturday.

The Mustangs, who join Gateway, Fox Chapel and Penn Hills as ones who hope to challenge for the section crown, fell to 0-2 with a 65-53 setback to Norwin Saturday.

“We will find out about who we are in these first couple of weeks,” Nesbit said.

“We know we are going to get everybody's best game in the section. This section will be so competitive, and we can't have an off night. It will be a challenge for us, and we are looking forward to that challenge. We just have to go in and play our game.”

Nesbit said the weekend off gave him and his coaches a chance to see some games.

“There were a lot of upsets the first couple of days,” Nesbit said.

“It shows the girls that anything can happen depending on how you play.”

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825, at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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