Gateway girls gaining experience against top competition

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Sunday, January 31, 2021 | 9:01 AM


The Gateway girls basketball team started its season with losses in its first six games, including its first four in Section 2-5A play.

The six teams — section foes Latrobe, Woodland Hills, Penn Hills and McKeesport, along with Chartiers Valley and Bethel Park — were a combined 22-3 through Jan. 26.

Gators coach Curtis Williams said the challenging start to the season will be a benefit to his young squad as they continue to progress through their compact schedule and approach the open WPIAL playoffs.

“The beginning of the season is what I intended with the teams we faced,” Williams said.

“We wanted the girls, especially the younger ones new to varsity, to get that experience and play against the best competition in the WPIAL. They are only going to learn and grow from it.”

Williams said he has seen that growth in a still-developing rotation, which ranges from senior Cal (Pa.) commit Dynasty Shegog and junior letter winner Lexi Margolis to a crop of freshmen looking to make their mark right out of the gate.

“They’re growing from these experiences,” he said. “They are getting better and increasing their knowledge. I hope they continue that. They want to win, but I want them to realize that it is a process, and good things will come.”

Gateway hoped to break into the win column last Thursday as it was to face Greensburg Salem in a section contest.

The Gators then were to step away from section competition Saturday at Canon-McMillan. Both games were to be contested past the deadline for this week’s edition.

Gateway is coming off a 2019-20 season when it captured the Section 2 championship with a 10-2 record and finished 17-6 overall with a trip to the WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinals.

A pair of starters, 6-foot-4 forward and Kent State recruit Lexi Jackson and fellow starting forward Annie Garness, graduated.

Williams said a choppy start to the season because of a school district covid stoppage of athletic activities and then the state-wide three-week shutdown slowed his team’s growth.

When the team returned to the court Jan. 4, there were only a few practices available before it opened against Woodland Hills on Jan. 8.

The Wolverines got the better of the Gators that night, 45-29.

“Without any scrimmages, we’ve used these games to basically learn our team,” Williams said.

Gateway came close to picking up its first win against section-leading Latrobe on Jan. 15. The Gators led 27-20 at halftime before the Wildcats rallied in the third quarter and held on for a 51-47 victory.

“The game plan went well, but we just didn’t make shots and didn’t make free throws coming down the stretch,” Williams said.

“That’s part of being young, learning how to finish off games. With the exception of Chartiers Valley, we’ve started out well with a lead or it was a close game. We have to remember to not be satisfied or complacent because we build a lead. We need to remember to continue to do the good things in a game that helped us build the lead in the first place. We had opportunities (against Latrobe), and we battled against a good team.”

Shegog scored a season-best 16 points against Latrobe, and she led the team in scoring (9.3 points per game) and rebounds (7.7 rpg.) through her team’s first six contests.

Margolis averaged 6.6 points a game and tallied a season high of 11 in a 58-40 setback to Penn Hills on Jan. 11.

“We are pushing each other to work harder in every practice and game knowing that we are up against difficult teams,” Margolis said.

“The early part of the schedule has really brought the team closer together. I am confident we will be able to continue to get better and win games.”

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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