Gateway boys look to build off WPIAL playoff berth

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Sunday, December 6, 2020 | 10:16 AM


The Gateway boys basketball team made strides last season, going from just three wins in section and five victories overall the year before to 10 wins and a return berth in the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs.

The Gators, junior Will Kromka said, now are ready to take the next step.

“Coming off my freshman year, which was disappointing, and getting to the playoffs was huge for us,” said Kromka, a 6-foot-3 guard/forward who scored a team-best 10 points in a 48-43 WPIAL first-round loss to Shaler last February.

“We were happy with it, but we’re still hungry. That has driven us to get deeper into the playoffs.”

With the school district going to fully remote learning until January because of ongoing covid concerns, the start of competition has been delayed until at least the start of the New Year.

“It’s definitely very tough. We’re all going through it,” Kromka said. “We’ve all been going through it. But that is just out of our control. Our coach always tells us to focus on the things we can control. I guess it’s like how basketball sometimes is with waiting for your time to come. If you are patient, you know good things will come your way.”

Third-year coach Alvis Rogers said team members have worked hard to maintain their physical readiness and are anxious to continue building on what he said was strong work in the offseason.

“They’ve been troopers through all of this,” said Rogers, who met with his team for workouts Nov. 20 and 21, the first and second days of official preseason practices, before the school district suspended athletic activities.

“We’ve talked about it. They have stayed as positive and as ready as possible. My senior point guard, Quincy Germany, texted me wanting to know if there were things they could do on their own. I just told them to get into a gym whenever they can, get shots up, and work on ball-handling and their overall conditioning, stuff like that.”

A group of Gators players captured the championship of the Pittsburgh Basketball Federation’s fall league.

“There were some pretty good teams in that league,” Rogers said. “That really got them excited, and they are still excited. There’s something special about this group.”

Rogers said this year’s team hopes to push the ball offensively and use its athleticism and quickness to press on defense.

Germany is back to lead the offense after averaging three points and five assists last season. He also was a force on defense with 30 steals.

Kromka, who earned second-team All-Section 1-5A honors last year with Gators graduate RJ Stevenson, scored 13 points a game and added six rebounds a contest. He shot 44% from the field and 34% from 3-point range.

“We’ve really challenged Will to take his game to the next level,” Rogers said.

Rogers also expects big things from 6-foot-7 junior forward Ryan Greggerson, who averaged nine points and six rebounds last year.

Others, Rogers said, who hope to make an impact in the starting lineup or in the overall rotation include senior guard Dylan Cain and sophomore guards Jaydon Carr and Michael Stevenson.

“At the end of last season, the guys were really believing in each other,” Rogers said. “Everyone bought into what we were selling.”

Rogers said he thinks Penn Hills transfer Dallas Harper, a 6-1 sophomore guard/forward who also plays football, will provide a boost to the team.

“He played JV last year and dressed for varsity,” Rogers said. “I got a chance to see him on the court in open gyms and those first couple days of practice. He’s a pretty athletic kid.”

Gateway will mix it up in Section 3-5A with Franklin Regional, Latrobe, Kiski Area, McKeesport, Penn Hills and Woodland Hills. Rogers said the section should be competitive, and his team has the potential and ability to challenge for the section crown.

“It just comes down to us being at the top of our game each time,” Rogers said.

Penn Hills was the No. 1 seed for last year’s WPIAL Class 5A playoffs, but the Indians were upset by eventual champion Laurel Highlands in the quarterfinals. Franklin Regional and McKeesport also return after earning a playoff spot.

Gateway edged Woodland Hills by one game for the fourth WPIAL playoff spot in last year’s Section 1 standings. The Gators’ clinched their trip to the playoffs with a 56-53 win over second-place McKeesport in the section finale.

Latrobe is looking for a fresh start with a move down from Class 6A.

“Coach trusts in us, and we trust in him,” Kromka said. “We believe in each other. I think we have the talent, work ethic and the chemistry to be able to compete for that section title.”

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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