Gateway boys knock Franklin Regional out of playoffs

Friday, February 11, 2022 | 10:51 PM

Gateway came to Murrysville on Friday night and spoiled Franklin Regional’s night on multiple levels.

The Gators ruined the Panthers’ senior night and knocked them out of the WPIAL boys basketball playoffs for the first time in seven years with a 57-36 victory in a Section 3-5A game.

Franklin Regional came into the night in a three-way for third with Kiski Area and Woodland Hills, all of which were a half-game ahead of idle McKeesport.

Kiski Area beat Latrobe to clinch third. Woodland Hills lost to Penn Hills, creating a three-way tie with McKeesport for third. Woodland Hills was 3-1 in the three-way tie, Franklin Regional was 2-2 and McKeesport was 1-3, giving Woodland Hills the final playoff spot and subsequently knocking out Franklin Regional and McKeesport.

As complicated as the tiebreaking procedure turned out to be, the loss for Franklin Regional coach Jesse Reed was a little more simplistic. The Panthers didn’t do a good enough job executing.

“We turned the ball over a lot in the first half and gave them a ton of offensive rebounds,” Reed said. “You’re taking possessions away from yourself and at the same time giving them more opportunities. No matter how good you shoot it, and we shot it poorly, or how you defend, if you give teams second attempts it’s hard to maintain and stay in the game. Hats off to them. They played really well, shot well and defended well. They took it to us.”

Gateway (13-5, 9-3) led 16-11 after the first quarter and broke it open in the second, outscoring the Panthers, 15-5.

The Gators held Franklin Regional (7-13, 5-7) off the scoreboard for the first 512 minutes of the second before Finn Hutchison connected on a 3-pointer to end the drought.

After Gateway started the second on a 10-0 run, Franklin Regional never got within double digits again.

A couple of blocks each from Ryan Greggerson and Will Kromka and multiple steals from Jaydon Carr were part of the stellar defensive effort from the Gators in the quarter.

“It was a good team effort defensively, and that’s what we stressed, especially in practice yesterday,” Gateway coach Alvis Rogers said. “The old saying is ‘defense wins championships,’ and that’s what we’re after is a championship. They took what they did yesterday in practice and applied it today, especially in the second quarter. We got some steals and shut them down.”

Gateway continued to be stout defensively in the third, holding the Panthers to seven points and held a 42-23 lead.

The Panthers made only three shots from the field between the second and third quarters.

“They have a bunch of really good players,” Reed said. “They switch a lot, and their guards pressure well, so it makes it tough to run your stuff and score. You have to execute well. They make it tough, but we also didn’t help ourselves.”

The Gators had a balanced attack offensively. Carr had 15 points, Greggerson scored 14, MJ Stevenson 11 and Kromka nine.

“We have guys that can put the ball in the basket,” Rogers said. “All five of our starters can be the leading scorer, and that’s happened throughout the season. The guys played unselfish tonight and did a good job.”

Hutchison led the Panthers with nine points. Caden Smith followed with eight, and Cameron Rowell had seven.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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