Gateway girls basketball looks to use team approach to get back on track

Sunday, November 27, 2022 | 11:01 AM

For the last several seasons, the Gateway girls basketball team has had one or two top-level players on the roster — a scorer or two who could fill up the stat sheet before matriculating on to the next level to play high-end college basketball.

Players like Lexi Jackson, Dynasty Shegog, Mary Kromka, Jordan Edwards and, most recently, Lexi Margolis are shining examples of that.

The journey will look a bit different this season, as the Gators don’t boast a singular talent like that, but coach Curtis Williams is OK with that. He thinks this group will be more into sharing the ball and that it will play more as a team instead of relying on certain players to make them go.

“We will do some things differently than we have in the past. In years past, we were reliant on seniors and good players. We’ve had collegiate-level players that have had a heavy hand in what we do,” said Williams, who enters his eighth season leading the Gators. “We’re a bit more diverse in our approach this year, so we’re not as dependent upon one person to lead us. I think that’s where there will be more improvement.”

It’ll start with four returning starters, including last year’s leading scorer in Marina Grado. Her senior classmates Jayla Oliver, Mea Johnson and Jamella Bailey are also back.

“We’re looking for a big senior year from Marina. … She was our leading scorer last year,” said Williams. “Jayla Oliver was injured for most of the year last year too, so her returning to health will be good. She’ll have a big impact on what we do.”

The Gators should also get contributions from Anayla Jordan, a junior guard, Amiya White, a senior forward, and a returning Becca Ryan, a junior. Ryan missed last season with an injury suffered during soccer season.

For a team that was 5-13 overall and 4-8 in Section 4-5A a year ago, things appear to be on the rise. That team mentality will go a long way in a tough section that includes Penn Hills, Franklin Regional, Kiski Area, Plum, Woodland Hills and Indiana. Williams expects it to be a difficult section to grind through but likes his team’s chances.

“They have a little bit more experience under their belt this year, and there’s a lot more confidence,” said Williams. “The section is pretty tough. I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, but we have a good opportunity. We’ve taken some lumps, and it will be tough.”

The Gators will not be taking any time to ease in, as they’ll take part in the Play4Mae Tipoff Tournament hosted by Woodland Hills on Dec. 2-3. The Gators will open the season against perennial Class 3A power North Catholic.

“To be a good team, you’ve got to play really good teams,” said Williams. “Working together as a team will be a big key for us … staying together and staying connected. If we can do that, I think we’ll be right in the conversation for a playoff spot and hopefully a section championship.”

At a glance

Coach: Curtis Williams (eighth season)

2021-22 record: 5-13 (4-8 in Section 4-5A)

Returning starters: Marina Graydo (Sr., G), Jayla Oliver (Sr., G), Mea Johnson (Sr., F), Jamella Bailey (Sr., F)


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