Reynolds makes clutch plays as Shaler boys beat Gateway

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Monday, February 17, 2020 | 10:53 PM


Late in the fourth quarter of Monday’s WPIAL Class 5A first-round game, seventh-seeded Shaler Area’s 14-point halftime lead was gone, erased by upset-minded, 10th-seeded Gateway.

With the score tied at 42, and the Titans reeling, senior Mekhi Reynolds saw an opening to the basket and wasn’t going to miss.

Reynolds’ lay-up with about 2:20 left put the Titans ahead. Then, he got to the basket one more time, sealing Shaler’s 48-43 victory at North Hills Middle School. The Titans advanced to the quarterfinals Friday against No. 2 seed Chartiers Valley

Reynolds, who averages 23.2 points, finished with a game-high 19 points.

“I was just driving down the lane, and all I saw was the rim and I knew I wasn’t giving it up,” Reynolds said. “I practice for moments like that. I’ve always been ready for that.”

Shaler coach Rob Niederberger said the bench knew Reynolds would attack the rim and make the chance as soon as he got the ball.

“He saw the hoop, and he was going. We knew it, and that’s what we want,” Niederberger said.

Early on, it didn’t seem like any late-game heroics would be needed as Shaler (14-9) took a 28-14 lead into halftime.

But Gateway (10-12) chipped away, outscoring the Titans 19-11 in the third quarter, before tying the score in the fourth quarter.

Niederberger said he never worried, as his team made plays down the stretch.

“We came out well in the first half with a lot of fire, and we were a bit flat in the third quarter and made some mental errors that helped them get back in the game a bit, but (Gateway) hit some shots, so they get some credit too,” Niederberger said. “It wasn’t a nailbiter for me. We have a ton of confidence in this group. We’re battle-tested and have been in a lot of close games, so we weren’t worried.”

Senior Jake Miller and sophomore Chris Whire scored 10 points apiece for the Titans. White’s basket out of a scramble with less than a minute remaining made it a two-possession game.

Gateway got a few looks in the final possession, but nothing fell,.

“We played a little too fast for ourselves in the first half and dug ourselves a hole. I just went in at halftime and challenged the guys,” Gateway coach Alvis Rogers said. “They came out and responded, and we still let it get away from us a little. Shots weren’t falling. We probably shouldn’t have taken the shot we did before (Mekhi’s) second play late. But we want our guys to shoot if they’re open. (Mekhi) made some plays.”

Senior RJ Stevenson, who will play at Hilbert College, and sophomore Will Kromka scored 10 points apiece for the Gators.

The postseason win was Shaler’s first over Gateway since the second round of the 2012 PIAA playoffs. Gateway had won the previous three matchups.

“We played seven games in 15 days to end the season, and it snowballed a little bit. We needed to take a breath, and we worked on us. We needed to get back to playing Shaler basketball like we were,” Niederberger said. “When we talk at an elite level on defense and we make shots and give a full 32, we feel like we can beat anybody.”

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