Gateway boys continue to build identity in advance of WPIAL playoffs

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Sunday, February 7, 2021 | 11:18 AM


When the Gateway boys basketball team’s Section 3-5A game with Woodland Hills was postponed from Feb. 2, Gators coaches and school officials looked for another opportunity to play.

“Our AD (Don Holl) asked if we wanted to play Avonworth,” Gateway assistant coach Verne Benson said.

“We said, yeah. It beats just practicing. Anytime you get a chance to play a game is a chance to get better.”

Gateway took the bus ride to Avonworth and scored a decisive 77-43 victory against the previously undefeated Antelopes who came into the game as the No. 4 team in the Trib HSSN Class 3A rankings.

“It was a really good win for our guys,” said Benson, who saw the team win its second in a row after a three-game losing streak and improve to 4-4 overall.

“We played well. We got out and were able to run and finish well at the rim. We were solid defensively, and that led us to a number of transition buckets. We needed a good win like that going into Friday’s game with Penn Hills.”

Friday’s section matchup with the Indians at Gateway’s Furrie Sports Complex was to be contested past the deadline for this week’s edition.

Penn Hills headed into that game 6-3 overall and 3-0 in the section.

The Gators also were to visit Latrobe on Tuesday in a section rematch of Gateway’s 84-61 victory from Jan. 15.

Gateway hopes to avenge a loss from earlier in the season when it hosts Franklin Regional on Friday.

The Gators, Benson said, continue to find themselves, build an identity and build a resume in a season like no other as they look toward the open WPIAL Class 5A playoff tournament which will begin as early as Feb. 27.

“It’s been such a crazy year, and the open tournament is a good way to make it appealing for all teams and something good to work to,” Benson said. “It’s nice for every team to have the opportunity if they want it.”

Against Avonworth, Gateway broke open a close game by outscoring the Antelopes 49-20 over the second and third quarters.

Four players reached double figures — Ryan Greggerson and M.J. Stevenson each scored 18, Jaydon Carr scored 16, and Will Kromka added 15 — in a team effort reminiscent of the five players who scored in double figures against Latrobe.

The team got a boost in practice Feb. 2 with the return of head coach Alvis Rogers.

Rogers had been away from the team since having heart bypass surgery Dec. 21.

“It was good to get back on the floor and just be with the players and coaches,” Rogers said. “I am doing well and getting stronger by the day.”

Rogers, who has been cleared to return to practice and games, praised Benson and coach Ed Meli, for taking the reins of the team in his absence. Rogers didn’t travel with the team to Avonworth, but he was expected to coach the Gators against Penn Hills.

“It helped the guys to have him there at practice and hear his voice,” Benson said.

Gateway squeezed out its third section win Jan. 29 with a 45-42 victory over Kiski Area behind 11 points from Kromka and Carr and 10 more from Greggerson.

The Cavaliers tried to rally in the second half and outscored the Gators, 21-16, over the final 16 minutes but they were not able to overcome Gateway’s 29-21 advantage at the break.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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