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Gateway hopes to catch fire in playoffs

| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Alisa Jacobson | FOr The Times Express
Gateway’s Daylon Harris (2) and Aiden Howard (15) defend Plum’s James Edwards during a Section 2-AAAA game on Jan. 24, 2014.

After nine games in Section 2-AAAA play, the Gateway varsity boys basketball team stood at 8-1 and was tied for first place with Plum.

The Gators, who battled through a host of injuries down the stretch, closed out section action 1-4.

Included in that was a 69-58 loss at McKeesport last Friday in the regular-season finale.

But the Gateway players saved their playoff bacon on Feb. 4 with a complete 71-42 triumph at home against Pittsburgh Central Catholic.

It was a victory that put the Gators in the playoffs and put the Vikings at the brink of elimination.

Central Catholic then lost to Fox Chapel, 56-50, on Friday and was denied a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2011.

The Vikings finished fifth in the section at 8-6. McKeesport, which went 4-2 over its final six section games, ended sixth in the section at 7-7.

The WPIAL playoff pairings, including dates, times and locations, were to be released Tuesday evening, past the deadline for this week's edition.

Games begin this weekend, and the top five teams from the AAAA tournament will advance to states.

“It's a four-game season,” Gateway head coach Mitch Adams said.

“They have to get the job done now. Their next loss is their last loss. There's no second chances. If and when healthy, and with everybody on the same page and executing the way they can, this is a very good team.”

In 2011, Gateway won the WPIAL title as the No. 4 seed. In 2012, it got the job done as the No. 11 seed.

Adams said six strong teams battled for four playoff spots in Section 2.

“It doesn't surprise me with this section. Central Catholic and McKeesport were very deserving to be in the playoffs,” Adams said.

“You had the six teams in the section that are very good, and you had a young Penn Hills team that was pushing everybody.”

Plum won the section title outright with a 71-67 victory over Fox Chapel on Feb. 4, and it then stumbled against section runner-up Franklin Regional, 57-43, on Friday.

The Mustangs finished 11-3, while the Panthers ended up 10-4.

Gateway is in the WPIAL playoffs for the fifth straight season.

The Gators missed the playoffs in 2009 but qualified in 2010 and made it all the way to the WPIAL title game before falling to Mt. Lebanon.

Gateway then made history the next two years.

Adams said it wasn't a good night Friday against McKeesport.

“I was very disappointed with their total effort knowing they could solidify a No. 6 or No. 7 seed (in the WPIAL playoffs),” he said.

“They didn't make foul shots or layups, and they turned the ball over. They went out there and just didn't get it done.”

Three Gators finished in double figures, led by senior Tommy Kromka with 17 points.

Senior Delvon Randall added 16, while junior Daylon Harris scored 11.

Senior Khalil Perdue scored a game-best 22 for McKeesport, which fell behind by two, 14-12, after the first quarter but outscored Gateway in each of the final three stanzas.

A concussion has taken the past couple of weeks of play from senior point guard Shomari Thomas, and, Adams said, he doesn't know if Thomas will be back for the first round.

The injury bug also has bitten Kromka, Randall and senior Montae Nicholson, as well as Harris and sophomore Aiden Howard.

“We've had our share of injuries,” Adams said. “Sometime it comes, and sometimes it doesn't. We have to overcome it.”

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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