Gateway girls again the hunters in section race
From the 2010-11 season to the 2012-13 campaign, Gateway varsity girls basketball teams won three straight section titles and compiled an overall section record of 31-5.
Last year, the Gators dipped to 7-5 in Section 2-AAAA and finished fourth behind Fox Chapel (11-1), Plum (9-3) and Penn Hills (8-4).
With only two lost to graduation from last year, the Gateway players are anxious to get the season going and have a chance to return to the top of the section standings.
“We want to reclaim (the section title) for our own. It wasn’t OK not winning it last year,” senior Morgan Hainsey said.
“The older players know what it’s like to have that title, and we want it again.”
Gateway made the WPIAL playoffs again last year, and it played WPIAL power Mt. Lebanon tough before falling, 63-46, in the first round at Baldwin High School.
“That game told us we can be good this year, but it also told us we have to be consistent with our play,” head coach Cornelius Nesbit said.
“We have to minimize lapses. We were in good shape at halftime and even going into the fourth quarter, then the flood gates opened.”
Nesbit said the offseason effort and work was productive.
“It was a good offseason, especially for the younger players to build on last year,” Nesbit said. “We got to see some kids make plays that we needed them to make. It confirmed to us that we can play 10 to 12 kids this year. It gives us an opportunity to do a lot of different things in practices.”
Hainsey, a 6-foot senior forward, is a three-year letter winner who was one of the top scorers and rebounders for Gateway last year.
“Morgan is our all-everything kid,” Nesbit said.
“We expect her to do a lot of things. She will play multiple positions. She’s prepared herself for it. She’s going to be playing on the wing and in the post. We want to create some mismatches and play to her strengths.”
Hainsey, Nesbit said, is getting looks from a couple of Division II schools, including IUP.
“It’s a matter of her getting off to a good start, for herself and for the team,” Nesbit said.
Senior guard London Wade also is back, and she is in her third season with the Gateway girls basketball program.
“Our relationship has grown over the past three years,” Nesbit said.
“We’re very comfortable with each other, and we can talk over different things. She’s really an extension of me on the floor as the point guard, and she’s really bought into that. She’s become a nice leader.”
Senior guard/forward Alexis Young, junior Jasmine Copeland, sophomore forward Amoni Carter and sophomore guard Diamond Thomas all played in the playoff game against Mt. Lebanon and are expected to be starters or big parts of the rotation.
Also expected to be in the mix are sophomore forward Jazlyn Rozier, sophomore guards Alexis Smith and Katie Madjerich and freshman guard Courtney Seneca.
“The sophomore class will be key for us this year,” Nesbit said.
Nesbit said he’s excited to see what freshman guard Jordan Edwards can do on the floor in varsity games this season.
“Jordan has an opportunity to be a really special player in this program,” he said.
“She’s quick and a great defender. She’s already getting college interest. She was a dominant player in middle school. There’s always that adjustment to the varsity game, but we expect great things. We’ve been excited to see her get up here.”
Nesbit said senior guard Elena Merlino has taken big strides and improved coming into this year.
“The competition in practice has been great,” Wade said. “Everyone is pushing each other. That’s what we need.”
Gateway opens its season Dec. 9 with a nonsection game at defending WPIAL Quad-A champion Penn-Trafford.
The Warriors defeated Mt. Lebanon, 32-24, in the quarterfinals on the way to the title.
The Gators begin section play at home against Woodland Hills on Dec. 12.
“The section title has to go through Penn Hills with their two quality guards (Desiree Oliver and Jade Ely) and their strong coaching,” Nesbit said.
“Even though they lose (Duke recruit Erin) Mathias, Fox Chapel brings back a lot of talent and a new coach who I am familiar with. (Courtney) Zezza’s back at Plum. She’s a Division I player (St. Francis). McKeesport can be a team that can surprise some people. If you don’t bring you’re ‘A’ game each night, you can get beat. We didn’t win the section title last year, so we have to chase that again. It’s good motivation for the girls to be prepared.”�
Michael Love is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5825 or at email@example.com