Gateway notebook: Gators tandem takes 3rd at PIAA doubles championships

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Sunday, June 4, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Emily Levine wasn’t witness to her Gateway doubles team’s run to third place at the PIAA Class 3A tournament May 27, at the Hershey Racquet Club.

Her husband had undergone emergency eye surgery, and she wasn’t able to travel.

But the news that traveled back to the Pittsburgh area excited the first-year Gators coach who rode the wave of emotion and accomplishment with her players all throughout what was a historic season overall for the Gateway tennis team.

Sophomores Adam Memije and Zidan Hassan lost a tightly contested three-set semifinal match to District 3 champs Aidan and Tyler Mahaffey of Palmyra, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (3), 6-3.

“I do know the match was a nail-biter, and it was incredible to know the level of play that the boys were at,” Levine said. “They were playing the champions from the previous year, and to take it to three sets speaks highly of their training and type of players that we have here. It was exciting for them, and they gave it their all.”

Memije and Hassan regrouped and returned to the court about three hours later to compete for third place.

And this time, the Gators duo wouldn’t be denied.

They captured bronze with a straight-set victory – 6-4, 7-5 – over the brother duo of seniors Abhiraj and Abhineet Srivastava from Downingtown East, the fifth-place team from District 1.

“They were disappointed they didn’t reach their goal of a state title, but they came back and played well for third place,” Levine said. “There was still excitement they had made it that far, and they knew they still had something to play for. They are very determined players. To go to Hershey and represent their team and their school and the entire district, it’s great to see what they accomplished.”

Memije and Hassan, the WPIAL champs, picked up a pair of straight-sets victories to reach the semifinals. They dispatched District 1 runners-up Jack Barrickman and Ryan Megil of Unionville, 6-4, 6-4, in the quarters.

“We were just so proud of them for the way they went out there and competed and capped what was an amazing season for Gateway tennis,” Levine said.

“To come out and play for the team for the first year, they were a part of something that we hope will only get bigger in years to come. I think a lot of people took notice of this team, and it has generated more interest. I think a lot of young kids can look up to this team and aspire to reach for those same goals and expectations.”

Hassan and Memije waited exactly one month from their WPIAL-title victory — April 26 over Allderdice’s Deniz Finkel and Ian Kuchera at Bethel Park — to compete in the state tournament.

But the duo wasn’t idle as it continued to train and also helped lead Gateway to the WPIAL team title May 10 at Washington & Jefferson College and a PIAA semifinal appearance in Hershey the weekend of May 20.

Jones caps debut season at PIAA track championships

Gateway senior Derrick Jones came on strong at the WPIAL Class 3A track and field championships, going from relative obscurity to a pair of medals in the hurdles and two automatic berths to the PIAA state meet at Shippensburg University.

Jones didn’t have the state-meet performances he wanted — 26th in the 110-meter high hurdles and 21st in the 300 hurdles — but Gateway coach Tom LaBuff said he felt accomplished in reaching the PIAA championships after just picking up the hurdles at the start of the spring season in early March.

“He was ready to go Friday (May 26),” LaBuff said. “He was confident and focused. But he just ran into some unfortunate circumstances.”

Jones ran a time of 15.42 seconds in his 110 high preliminary heat. He ran 15.40 at WPIALs and moved from the 19th seed to a fourth-place medal.

“I didn’t expect him to make the finals in the 110 high, but he and I were disappointed he didn’t improve on his time,” LaBuff said.

“We liked Lane 8 for his prelim heat, but he was next to a kid who had the opposite lead leg, and that caused their arms to make contact every time they went over a hurdle at the same time. It was throwing him off. You could see it on video. It was just a case of bad luck for Derrick and the other kid, too.”

A crash about halfway through his preliminary heat in the 300 hurdles slowed his time, and he finished in 43.06.

He came to the race hoping to break 40 seconds after running a 40.08 at WPIALs for a bronze medal.

“Derrick was having a great race in the same heat as the WPIAL champ (North Hills sophomore Gamaliel Mogire)” LaBuff said.

“He was in Lane 2 and was coming off the sixth hurdle. It looked like he was going to win the heat, and he was the fifth seed in his heat. He was flying. No doubt he would’ve been in the low 38s. Something happened, and he caught the hurdle with his lead leg on the way up and went down hard. You could hear the crowd reacting.

“That was the first time he had fallen in the intermediates. The hurdle kind of reached up and bit him. He knew exactly what he had done. He knew that, in the end, it was a matter of not executing rather than of not being fast enough. He was stunned a little bit, but he got up and finished. He lost a lot of ground.”

Despite the finishes, LaBuff said Jones completed quite a season, and has a lot for which to be proud.

“He handled things well,” LaBuff said. “It was disappointing that he didn’t have better finishes at states, but he was there because of his great races at WPIALs. He had a great year. A first-year kid qualifying in two events for the state meet? That’s pretty rare.”

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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