Gateway girls stage furious rally to run past Penn-Trafford

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020 | 9:27 PM


Facing a 13-point deficit that felt more like 30, Gateway had to remind itself this was the playoffs and there was no next game.

“Late in that game, we decided it was time to play,” Gators coach Curtiss Williams said. “Our girls believed they still had a chance.”

Sixth-seeded Gateway rallied to tighten the gap, then rallied some more, coming all the way back with a big fourth quarter to eliminate Penn-Trafford, 37-36, in a WPIAL Class 5A girls first-round basketball game Tuesday night at Norwin.

Sophomore Alexis Margolis scored all 11 of her points, including three 3-pointers, in the fourth, when the Gators (17-5) outscored the 11th-seeded Warriors, 21-9.

Gateway advances to play No. 3 Trinity (17-4) in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

Penn-Trafford (15-8), which will move up to Class 6A next year, led 29-16 to start the fourth quarter. As hot as the Warriors were early, they were just as cold in the fourth.

Gateway took advantage and rumbled to life offensively after struggling for 24 minutes.

“We only had two points in the first quarter and eight in the first half, so we had to stay patient and just try to chip away,” Williams said. “We started to put the ball in the hoop more.”

Penn-Trafford had what looked like a comfortable lead ripped from its paws.

“It’s the playoffs, and you know teams are going to make one more push at you,” Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said. “They made some shots, and we had trouble scoring in the fourth. We had looks, but they didn’t go in. We had our chances.”

Margolis ignited the comeback with two corner 3-pointers. The Gators put together a 13-0 run to close the gap to 35-33 with 1:20 to play.

“We are so inexperienced at the guard position, so you never know what to expect,” Williams said. “(Margolis) really stepped up and made some plays. Our guards grew up tonight.”

Penn-Trafford senior guard Bella Long, defended well by the long and athletic Gators, quelled the surge with a 3-point play to give the Warriors a 36-35 lead with 44.8 to play.

But junior Dynasty Shegog hit a bank shot with 16.9 remaining to put the Gators ahead 37-36.

Penn-Trafford still had a chance. Well, two.

After one inbound play under its own hoop deflected off a Gateway player gave them a second chance, the Warriors turned it over in the closing seconds.

Long caught the ball and tried to pass to the corner, but Shegog got a hand on the ball and Margolis made a steal to seal it for the Gators.

Penn-Trafford built a 17-8 lead by halftime, using an 11-0 spurt in the second quarter to give the impression it was going to run away and hide.

But like previous matchups, Williams knew it was destined for another close finish.

“You expect a close game when we play them,” he said. “We beat them last year, 50-49. Earlier this year, they beat us, 59-58.”

Warriors’ sophomore Maura Suman hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Gators, who were ranked No. 2 at the time.

Giannikas was hoping for less theatrics this time.

“This was eerily reminiscent of the last game,” he said. “We were up six with like two minutes to go, and they came back. I am proud of our girls and what they accomplished. I couldn’t be prouder of their effort.”

Junior Allie Prady had 15 points to lead Penn-Trafford. She made three 3-pointers and scored 13 in the first half. Junior Kenzie Powell added nine points, all in the second half.

Senior 6-foot-2 forward Lexi Jackson, a Kent State commit, had nine points for the Gators.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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