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Feb. 21—The Gateway boys and girls basketball teams have reached the end of the regular season.
The Gators will host a varsity doubleheader against McKeesport at 6 and 8 p.m. Friday.
Then, it is on to their respective open WPIAL Class 5A playoff tournaments where they hope to make things happen.
"That is a big focus for us, just the opportunity to keep playing," said Gateway girls coach Curtis Williams, whose team stood at 5-9 overall after a 62-54 loss to South Fayette on Feb. 17.
"At the beginning of the year, we didn't know if we would even be able to play. They've relished the chance to play as many games as possible, and the playoffs are an extension of that. Who knows what can happen in the playoffs? We are just glad to have that chance."
The WPIAL Board of Directors in December, fearing that covid cancellations and other interruptions to team schedules would create unbalanced section standings, voted to have the basketball playoffs decided in open-tournament formats.
Every team that wanted could join. Teams had to declare by 3 p.m. last Thursday.
The WPIAL basketball steering committee was expected to meet Tuesday to seed each of the 12 tournaments with the brackets released later in the day.
The first round will start as early as Saturday with the WPIAL finals slated for March 12, 13 and 15.
"We didn't have any doubts we would be playing in the playoffs," said Gateway boys coach Alvis Rogers, who saw his team win its third straight and improve to 7-5 overall with a 60-49 win over South Fayette on Feb. 16 behind a game-best 25 points from Will Kromka and 12 more from Ryan Greggerson.
The win was its fifth in six games, which also included Section 3 victories over Latrobe (Feb. 9) and Franklin Regional (Feb. 12) to up its section mark to 5-4.
"We had high goals going into the season for sections and WPIALs. We're right there in good position. The guys have a lot of confidence going into the playoffs. They have come around, especially on the defensive end. We always talk about how defense travels and how it can take you a long way. The offense might have a night off, but the defense can keep you in games and give you a chance to win them."
Rogers said he was looking forward to seeing how his team would perform on the road last Thursday against Upper St. Clair, which came into the game 11-1 and ranked No. 1 in the Trib HSSN Class 6A rankings.
The Gateway boys also were to visit section rival Kiski Area on Monday.
The games against the Panthers and Cavaliers were to be played past the deadline for this week's edition.
The Gateway girls' loss to South Fayette halted a mini two-game win streak, as the Gators had edged Baldwin and section rival Franklin Regional. Gateway posted a 5-2 mark over a seven-game stretch after starting the season 0-6.
"We have seen more and more growth each and every time we take the floor," Williams said.
"The girls have taken advantage of the opportunity to get better with each practice and it is reflective in our games."
Gateway's 46-29 win over Franklin Regional on Feb. 12, behind 17 points from Lexi Margolis, 10 from Dynasty Shegog and 11 more from Marina Grago, put it at 2-6 in Section 4.
Gateway took section-leading and one-loss Latrobe, 9-1 overall as of Feb. 17, deep into the fourth quarter on Feb. 8 before the Wildcats prevailed 56-51.
"We had opportunities in the game, but just blew it coming down the stretch," Williams said. "That is some of the youth and inexperience that we still have, but they are playing better and growing."
The Gators were to host Freeport in a nonsection game last Thursday before section matchups with Woodland Hills on Saturday and Greensburg Salem on Monday.
Those three games also were to be played past this week's deadline.
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .