Girls basketball preview: Gateway has firepower to contend in loaded section
Friday, December 4, 2020 | 10:39 PM
The Gateway girls basketball team opened its season with a practice Nov. 20, the first day winter sports teams were permitted to do so in the WPIAL and throughout Pennsylvania.
Then things came to a halt as Gateway suspended all athletic activities for two weeks — through Friday — as part of larger overall covid mitigation efforts in the district.
“I am not sure what will happen with the early part of the season schedule,” Gators coach Curtis Williams said. “We’re just keeping our fingers crossed that we can get some of those games in. It’s tough to not have those days of practice, but everyone’s safety is most important. We have to be patient. We’ll see what happens.”
When the team gets back to preparation for its season, Williams will be eager to see how a mixture of veterans and younger, less-experienced talent can mesh in and out of a new section in Class 5A.
Gateway topped Plum by one game for the Section 2-5A title last year. The Gators edged the Mustangs, 31-29, in the section finale as forward Dynasty Shegog’s buzzer-beating layup was the difference in the dramatic contest.
The Gators, who finished 17-6 overall, capped their season with a loss to Trinity in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
Gateway will mix it up in section play with Franklin Regional, Latrobe, Greensburg Salem, McKeesport, Penn Hills and Woodland Hills.
Woodland Hills won the Section 3 title last year and made it to the WPIAL semifinals, and Penn Hills and McKeesport also were playoff qualifiers. Latrobe missed the postseason by one game in Section 3, and Greensburg Salem did the same in Section 1-4A.
“It’s a brutal, tough section,” Williams said. “(The WPIAL) made this section a monster. You automatically have four playoff teams at the top of the list, and you add other teams who were close.”
Three players from last year’s team, including starting forwards Lexi Jackson, a Kent State commit, and Annie Garness, were lost to graduation.
Jackson led the team in scoring at 12.7 points and averaged 12.6 rebounds.
Lexi Margolis, a junior guard, is back after scoring 10.3 points per game and earning first-team all-section honors. Her season-best of 26 points came in a December victory over Uniontown.
Shegog, a 5-foot-10 senior forward, recently committed to Division II national power Cal (Pa.). She earned second-team all-section recognition last year after averaging 9.8 points and 6.8 rebounds.
“That is a big accomplishment for Dynasty to get an opportunity at a top-10, nationally ranked program,” Williams said. “She will have a legitimate chance to compete for a national championship.
“Dynasty really embraces that role and responsibility of being a team leader as a senior and the possibly of being the center of attention. She understands that Lexi is there, so opposing teams have to pick their poison. If they really overload to take Dynasty out, Lexi is going to be there to torch them.”
Williams said he is looking forward to seeing how returning starter Marina Grado, a sophomore point guard, raises her game after her first opportunity playing at the varsity level.
With just two seniors — Shegog and forward Sara D’Andries — and three juniors on the varsity roster, Williams said he will be counting on contributions from a collection of three other sophomores and four freshmen.
Junior forward Grace Weiskircher, at 5-10, provides size in the post.
“We’re really young, which is a lot of learning right now,” Shegog said. “It comes down to building and getting the chemistry together. I like the talent we have on this team. I think it will be a pretty good year for us.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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