Gateway claws back, wins in OT
Even with 3:10 left in regulation, it was easy to think this one was going to end with Upper St. Clair triumphantly marching into the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals.
Fourth-seeded Gateway's Devon Cottrell had just fouled out. The senior forward had 16 points up to that point and had supplied the Gators with much of their energy. And if that wasn't enough, the fifth-seeded Panthers had a nine-point lead in the quarterfinal played at North Hills.
"I just didn't want to let Devon end his career on a bad note," said Cottrell's junior teammate, Barnett Harris. "And we didn't want to go down like this."
So the Gators fought back.
Gateway went on an 11-2 run in the final minutes of regulation to tie the game at 55 and force overtime. In the extra period, the Gators were able to hit more clutch shots and prevailed, 65-61.
Inspired to play for his friend on the bench, Harris scored the tying layup with 14 seconds left in regulation, picked up a key defensive rebound with 2.6 seconds left in overtime and sank both ensuing foul shots.
"I knew they wouldn't let this be my last game," Cottrell said. "It was tough (fouling out). It put my team in a tough situation, but they pulled it out."
Harris tied Cottrell for the team lead with 16 points, and Tyler Scott and Luke Kochka added 11 points each. Scott had a crowd-igniting, one-handed dunk in the Gators' fourth-quarter rally, while Kochka nailed an important 3-pointer in overtime.
"Our kids played some gutty, gutty, gutty inspired basketball," said Gateway coach Mitch Adams , whose team will face upstart Butler in the semifinals Wednesday.
On the opposing bench, the Panthers were just trying to figure out how a game that was going so right went so terribly wrong.
"We battled like crazy for 36 minutes," Panthers coach Danny Holzer said. "We were right there. I'm really proud of them. We did a good job -- just came up a little bit short and lost a little bit of gas."
Upper St. Clair senior Steve Limberiou had a game-high 19 points in his final high school game, including all six of the Panthers' points in overtime. Teammate Derek Young finished with 11 points.
The Gators were hot out of the gate, making good use of their size to open the game on an 11-1 run. Their lead grew to 11 points heading into the final two minutes of the first quarter, but junior guard Jordan Grabowski got Upper St. Clair back into the game with back-to-back 3-pointers.
There was more to come.
In the first four minutes of the second quarter, the Panthers made four more 3-pointers, including two from senior Dakota Conwell, to claw their way back into the game and eventually grab a 25-23 lead. The teams played even from that point, but Upper St. Clair was still able to take a 31-29 advantage into halftime.
The lead grew to six points entering the fourth quarter, but the game was far from over.
"We went into a little bit of a lull after a great start," Adams said. "Our kids came back and played their hearts out. Never say die."