Gateway players disappointed in finish but relish ‘amazing performance’ throughout season

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Sunday, March 19, 2023 | 11:01 AM


It’s not the way the Gateway boys basketball team wanted to end the season.

After winning their first two WPIAL Class 5A playoff games against Woodland Hills and McKeesport, the Gators ended the year with three consecutive playoff losses.

Gateway dropped a 62-55 decision to Peters Township in the WPIAL semifinals, followed by a 67-51 loss to North Hills in the third-place consolation game, then suffered a tough 56-55 setback to Hershey in the PIAA first-round matchup.

The Gators, who easily won the Section 3 championship with a 9-1 record, finished 17-8 overall.

“We had a very good season with winning the section title and playing in the state playoffs,” coach Alvis Rogers said. “Obviously, we are not happy that we didn’t go further in the playoffs.

“The one-point lost to Hershey was very disappointing because we felt that we had an opportunity to win the game. However, it is hard to win games when you shoot 14 of 26 from the free-throw line.”

Gateway’s starting lineup consisted of senior guards Jaydon Carr, Kaleb Pryor and M.J. Stevenson, senior forward Tra Williams and junior forward Taili Thompson, with junior forward Alec Dunsmore and junior guard Vito Campolo serving as top reserves.

Carr, a three-year starter, scored a career-high 25 points against Latrobe in the Gators’ final regular-season game.

“I feel we struggled at the beginning of this season but came together towards the end to have a pretty good playoff run,” Carr said. “We won the section; the only thing we didn’t get that I wanted was the WPIAL championship. We made it to the Final Four two years in a row.

“Even though we had senior-heavy team, the Gators are going to be just as good if not even better next year. We have a lot of young talent in the program.”

Four players averaged double figures this season led by Carr’s 17 ppg mark. Carr was complemented offensively by Pryor (12 ppg), Thompson (12 ppg) and Stevenson (10 ppg).

“I think the team this year had an amazing performance,” Pryor said, “especially with the schedule we had in front of us and the amount of time we put in to be in position to play for a section title and win it. And being able to compete in the Final Four of WPIAL Class 5A not once but twice.”

Pryor also was a three-year starter at the varsity level. He netted a career-high 23 points against Hershey in the state tournament.

“What mattered to me was winning and getting my teammates involved and having them get better,” Pryor said, “and just being able to learn new things each day I stepped on the court.

“I’m thankful for the opportunities that came for me and also my teammates. I wouldn’t have wanted to play ball with any other group of guys and coaches.”

All five starters were lauded as all-section selections this year. Carr, Pryor and Stevenson were named to the first team, Thompson was a second-team pick and Williams received honorable mention plaudits.

Despite losing seven seniors, including four starters to graduation, Rogers said he expects the Gators to be a force with lofty goals again next season.

“Our expectations don’t change,” the fifth-year coach said. “They will be the same as this past season — win section, win WPIAL, win states. That’s how we go into each and every season.”

Next year’s team will be built around the three juniors who saw the most playing time this season — Thompson, Dunsmore and Campolo.

“Taili, Alec and Vito will be key parts to our success next year,” Rogers said.

Other players in the junior class who will be looking to make an impact include forwards David Broom and Jacob Piver, and guard Alex Lowry.

Leading sophomore prospects include guards Jermaine Cromerdie, Dwight Ricketts and Amari Gans, and forwards Dyson Harper and Paul Nnacho, who at 6-foot-5 was the tallest player on this year’s team.

“We are hoping that Paul Nnacho will develop into that frontcourt player that we can count on to contribute,” Rogers said, “especially on the defensive side of the ball.”

Top freshman players include forwards Jacob Settles and Grady Dunsmore and guard Mykel McCrommon.

After a 3-3 start in 2022-23, Gateway reeled off eight consecutive victories and won 12 of its final 14 regular-season games. The Gators were the only team in the section able to finish with a winning overall record in 2022-23.

Gateway was trailed by McKeesport (11-13, 6-4), Kiski Area (11-12, 5-5) and Penn Trafford (7-16, 4-6) in the section.

The Gators have advanced to the playoffs in 13 of the past 14 seasons.

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