Gateway, Osceola play for Great Florida Shootout title
By Rick Pedone
For the first time in three decades, an Osceola County team will be the Great Florida Shootout basketball champion.
Gateway defeated Winter Haven and Osceola stopped Windermere Prep in the semifinals Friday to advance to Saturday’s 8:30 p.m. championship contest.
Winter Haven and Windermere Prep will play for third place at 7 p.m.
Other consolation games start at 4 p.m. at the OHS gym. Tickets are $7.
Gateway defeated Osceola three weeks ago in a regular season contest.
Osceola won the first two Shootout championships in 1981-82, but since then the best the Kowboys or any team from Osceola County has come to winning the title was second place.
Gateway defeated defending bracket champion South Miami in overtime, 55-46, Thursday in the opening round of the eight-team tournament.
Osceola dispatched overmatched Rockledge, 70-52, in the first round.
Gateway, 12-4, battled taller South Miami, 13-2, in a seesaw contest that saw each team seem to pull away, only to have the other battle back.
Felix Gonzalez scored 14 of his game-high 18 points in the second half. His basket with 41 seconds left tied the score at 46, sending the game into overtime. South Miami held the ball for the last shot, but managed only a long-range 3-ponter at the buzzer.
Gonzalez scored the first two baskets of the overtime and Gio Guzman (11 points) scored four points as Gateway blanked the Cobras in overtime.
Juan Mena scored 12 points for the Panthers, who trailed 24-20 at the half and 40-38 in the fourth quarter.
“They are a very good defensive team,” Panthers Coach Bob Baker said. “We only had three 3s for the whole game, which is unusual for us. That’s our bread and butter.”
Baker benched several starters in the first quarter for disciplinary reasons, but Gateway led 10-9 when the second period started. Gateway expanded the lead to 16-9 before the Cobras went on a 9-0 run.
Osceola, 9-5, toyed with Rockledge, 6-8, in the final game of the first round. Cortez Edwards (17), Alain Allard (14) and Orlando Martinez (11) led the Kowboys, but Coach Nate Alexander went deep into his bench throughout the game.
“We went five in and five out a lot. We’re using a lot different combinations, trying to get it figured out,” Alexander said.
It was the Kowboys’ first game in almost two weeks, but the team had little trouble setting the tempo with its aggressive full-court pressure defense.
“We’ve been beating each other up in practice, so they were glad to get a chance to get out on the court,” Alexander said.
OHS led, 33-20, in the second quarter and 35-26 at the half. After scoring the first six points of the third period, making it 41-26, Alexander subbed frequently as the Kowboys steadily pulled away, leading by as many as 23 points in the fourth quarter.
Tre Perry (8) hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the third period to boost OHS.