Gateway gunning for long stay in WPIAL Quad-A playoffs
The Gateway varsity girls basketball team is in the WPIAL Quad-A playoffs for the fourth year in a row, and head coach Cornelius Nesbit hopes his team can make a run similar to the one it produced last year and avoid a fate it experienced in 2012.
The Gators won three of five postseason games last year and played in the WPIAL semifinals and the second round of the state playoffs.
Gateway suffered heartbreak in the first round at Baldwin two years ago with a last-second, 55-53 loss to Upper St. Clair.
“The playoffs are a new season, and the girls are excited about that,” Nesbit said.
The playoff pairings, including dates, times and locations for all first-round games, were to be released Tuesday evening, past the deadline for this week's edition.
Gateway finished the regular season 13-8 overall and 7-5 (fourth place) in Section 2-AAAA.
The Gators clinched their playoff spot with a 40-33 win at Franklin Regional on Jan. 28, and they were 4-3 overall down the stretch.
Gateway was 3-4 after seven section contests, but it went 4-1 over its final five section games to secure its place in the playoffs.
In addition to the playoff-clinching win at Franklin Regional, Nesbit pointed to a key home win over Plum, 50-49, on Jan. 24.
He also said a challenging nonsection slate, with games against such foes as Upper St. Clair, Vincentian, Norwin, Penn-Trafford, Keystone Oaks and Altoona, was very important.
“Our schedule should have us really ready for the playoffs,” Nesbit said.
“Most of our games were on the road, and that will help us because all of our games in the playoffs will be away from home. We have a routine for away games. The girls are used to it by now.”
Gateway continued preparation for the playoffs with a game Monday against two-time defending WPIAL Class A champ Vincentian.
The Royals, 18-3 overall, got 20 points from junior guard Brenna Wise in a 37-28 win over the Gators.
“The game gave us an opportunity to gage ourselves against a really good basketball team,” Nesbit said.
“It shows a lot about our kids when they go up against a player the caliber of Brenna Wise. This will help us when we get into the playoffs and play teams like Vincentian and players like Wise.”
Senior Jada Epps led Gateway with 14 points, and she finished the regular-season as the team's leading scorer at 13.7 points per game.
Junior Morgan Hainsey also finished the regular season in double figures for scoring average at 10.5 a contest.
Nesbit said that a lower seed comes with finishing fourth in the section, but, he said, a lot of the success or failure in the playoffs will be based on what his players do and what the coaching staff does.
“We have to focus on what we know we can do offensively and defensively,” Nesbit said.
“When the ball is thrown up, it's all about execution. We have the talent to make a run in the playoffs, no matter who we face.”
Nesbit said his team isn't looking back on any loss with regret.
“We can't change any outcomes,” he said. “But we can learn from mistakes made in games and build on positives. It's a clean slate in the playoffs, and we're optimistic about our chances to do well.”