Gateway boys earn berth to PIAA tournament

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Sunday, March 3, 2024 | 11:01 AM


The Gateway boys basketball team faced a do-or-die scenario for a trip to the PIAA playoffs.

After a loss to No. 2 Franklin Regional in the WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinals and then a close setback at home to Bethel Park in the fifth-place consolation semifinals, the Gators were still alive but had to beat section rival Kiski Area Feb. 28 at home to keep their season going.

It wasn’t easy, and Gateway coach Alvis Rogers didn’t think it would be, but the Gators made enough plays in the final minutes to hold off a furious Cavaliers rally and secure a 53-51 victory.

“The guys were confident and upbeat the past several days,” Rogers said after the game. “We had some spirited practices. We needed the effort and energy to be there. Basically, it was a new day. They had an opportunity to keep their season going, and they came out, played hard and had fun with it.”

Gateway improved to 18-8 overall and bounced back from only its second two-game losing skid of the season.

“The games we lost in the playoffs, we had chances,” Rogers said.

The Gators already had two intense battles with Kiski Area, a 64-57 win at home Jan. 9, and a 37-36 overtime victory at Kiski Area on Feb. 1.

The wins helped Gateway separate from the Cavaliers in the section standings. The Gators finished as the runners-up at 7-3, while Kiski Area finished 5-5.

Gateway led by 12 points early in the fourth quarter, but the Cavaliers started to force turnovers and make shots to turn the deficit into a one-point lead, 49-48, with two minutes left in regulation.

But Gators senior Alex Lowry made a layup, senior Alec Dunsmore sank two foul shots, and Lowry added a free throw with 22 seconds left to give the hosts the lead by two.

Kiski Area came down the court in the final seconds and had two chances to tie the game. But blocks from Lowry and sophomore Mykel Bruce-McCrommon helped preserve the win.

Lowry finished with a team-best 15 points, Dunsmore added 12, and Bruce-McCrommon scored 10.

“We knew they were going to start pressuring us and trapping,” Rogers said.

“We just needed to be a little stronger with the basketball. But the guys persevered and came away with the victory. We have prided ourselves all year on our defense, and it has come through for us.

Gateway’s reward for wrapping up the No. 7 berth from the WPIAL is a PIAA first-round game against the District 3 champion Friday.

The District 3 title game between Hershey, a team the Gators are very familiar with, and Mechanicsburg was to be played last Thursday, past the deadline for this week’s edition.

Gateway played Hershey each of the past two years in the PIAA playoffs. The Gators, as the fourth-place team from the WPIAL, won two years ago in overtime in the second round en route to the semifinals.

Last year, Hershey edged Gateway by one point, 56-55, in the first round.

The players were given a couple days off and were to return to practice Sunday to prepare for Friday’s matchup. Rogers said that at this time of the year, it is good to have a little time off to rest both mind and body.

Rogers said he felt really good for the team, especially the seniors, that they earned the chance to continue playing, meet for practices, and just be together for however long they have left this season.

“I reminded the guys in the locker room right before the game (with Kiski) that it was their last home game, and they didn’t want to come off the floor disappointed,” Rogers said.

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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