Gateway is OBC basketball champion
By Rick Pedone
Gateway won its eighth Orange Belt Conference boys basketball championship in 11 seasons Tuesday by holding off Poinciana, 68-58, at the John Ramirez gym.
Felix Gonzalez led all scorers with 26 points, 12 in the fourth quarter, as the Panthers, 16-7, were a perfect 17-of-17 from the free throw line. Gonzalez hit nine free throws in the fourth quarter and the Panthers last 10 points came from the charity strip in the final 1:26.
Poinciana, down three players who were suspended, slipped to 20-6.
Gateway Coach Bob Baker, who has guided the Panthers to all eight of their conference titles, said that a change in practice strategy Monday paid off against the Eagles.
“Instead of going up and down the floor, we shot 100 free throws (each),” Baker said. “We used to do that all the time. We needed a good free throw practice.”
Although it dressed only seven players, Poinciana played up-tempo and erased a 10-point deficit in the third quarter behind clutch baskets from Anthony Gomes (19) and Isaiah Moody (17).
Gateway dominated the offensive glass, often getting three and four shots per trip, but Poinciana’s speed propelled it to a 10-2 run as it took the lead, 44-43, early in the fourth quarter.
“We knew they wanted to knock us off,” Baker said. “They’ve won 20 games. They aren’t going to quit.”
Eagles Coach Shane Whitsett said his team had to play hard to make up for an absence of depth.
“We lost our 6-5 center for the season last week when he was suspended for six weeks for throwing an elbow, and we had two others suspended for this game,” he said. “It is a character test. It’s not the ideal time to have someone suspended, but that’s what happened.”
Gateway tied Osceola at 5-1 in the conference race and earned the title because it beat the Kowboys in their OBC game. Poinciana plays rival Liberty today at 7:30 at the Chargers gym. The Eagles (3-2) can take third place in the conference by beating Liberty.
At the 7A-5 girls basketball tournament at Lake Nona Tuesday, Osceola beat Celebration, 62-37, St. Cloud downed Gateway, 48-37 and Lake Nona beat Liberty, 88-9.
In today’s semifinals, St. Cloud meets Lake Nona at 5 p.m. and Osceola meets Harmony at 7 p.m. The winners play for the championship Saturday at 7 p.m.
City of Life Christian advanced to the regionals by beating Lakeland Victory Christian, 44-32, Tuesday. Khrisally Barrientos had 19 for the Warriors and Azia Constance scored 17. City of Life will play top-seeded Walker Memorial Saturday at Victory Christian for the 2A-6 district title.
Poinciana downed Lakeland Tenoroc, 48-28, at the 6A-8 tournament Tuesday and meets top-seeded Winter Haven today in the semifinals at Tenoroc.
New Dimensions was eliminated from the 3A-8 tournament by Santa Fe, 40-28.