Gateway boys basketball eager to build off WPIAL playoff appearance

Friday, March 6, 2020 | 5:15 PM

Progress is defined by movement toward a destination, and despite an early exit from the WPIAL Class 5A boys basketball playoffs, Gateway’s season can be defined by growth.

After a five-win season in 2018-19, Gators finished 6-6 in Section 1-5A this season, winning their last three section games to land a playoff spot.

The Gators season came to an end with a 48-43 first-round loss to Shaler at North Hills.

Second-year coach Alvin Rogers said his voice and system have finally started to set in with his players.

“They really bought into what was being taught to them as opposed to last year, the first year as head coach and the first year hearing me as the lead,” Rogers said. “I think that was the biggest difference this season.”

Before taking over in 2018, Rogers was an assistant coach at Gateway for four years.

“Also, before the first year, we didn’t play a lot of (basketball outside of the WPIAL season), while this past year, we played in a lot of different leagues (in the spring, summer and fall),” he said. “They played a lot of WPIAL teams in those leagues competitively, which gave them the confidence and belief to succeed. We plan to do the same thing this offseason.”

Before securing a playoff spot, the Gators faced their share of adversity.

The team started the season 3-5, losing to Bethel Park, North Allegheny and Penn Hills on the road before dropping four-straight section games in mid-January, which gave them a 5-9 record.

“There were games we left on the table that we should have won. I think we were better than some teams we lost to,” Rogers said. “They showed improvement as the season went along, and we went on a winning streak just to get in the playoffs. I challenged them, they accepted it and came through.”

The Gators were led by R.J. Stevenson (12.6 average), Will Kromka (10.5) and Elgin Oliver (10).

Stevenson, a 6-foot guard, was one of six seniors on the team. He committed to Hilbert.

“I’m going to miss playing with some of my closest friends. Our senior class was close, and we have known each other since 7th and 8th grade,” Stevenson said.

“I’ve learned that the higher level of basketball you are playing, the game becomes more about your mental toughness and how to outsmart your competition.”

The six-foot-three Kromka averaged 5.7 rebounds, and that was after suffering an ankle injury early in the season.

“I was out for about six weeks, missing a couple scrimmages and the first two games of the season. It definitely made it hard coming back because my legs were pretty weak, but they got stronger as the season went on,” Kromka said. “I’m really proud of our team because no one really believed in us or thought we were going to make playoffs, and we proved them wrong.”

Kromka also said he and his teammates need to work on every aspect of their game, especially boxing out and using correct defensive positioning.

Also returning next season for the Gators is Ryan Greggerson and Quincy Germany.

“They all need to have a big offseason. Kromka has to stay healthy. Germany needs to have a good offseason. Greggerson needs to hit the weight room,” Rogers said. “He’s a big guy but needs to get stronger and more aggressive. They got a taste of the playoffs, but didn’t like the (lasting) taste. They are ready to put in the work.”

Robert Scott III is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.


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