Gateway, Osceola meet for 7A-5 basketball title; PHS ousted from 6A-8 tourney
By Rick Pedone
Gateway and Osceola will meet for the fourth time Saturday at 7 p.m. for the 7A-5 boys district basketball championship at the St. Cloud gym.
Poinciana was eliminated at the 6A-8 tournament semifinals at Lake Wales, 59-56.
Gateway, the defending district champion, held off Celebration, 72-65, in the semifinal round Friday as Felix Gonzalez scored 29 points for the Panthers. The score was tied at 60 in the fourth quarter before the Panthers, 19-8, went on a 12-2 run to pull away thanks to key baskets from Justin Peters (14) and Gonzalez.
Osceola, 18-8, scored 12 points in a row to build a 23-12 lead against Lake Nona in the other semifinal and cruised to an easy 78-64 win.
Osceola has won two of three meetings against Gateway.
Gateway’s Peters hit a 3-point shot from the corner after Celebration’s Jhonny Victor (13) tied the score on a pair of free throws. Peters scored again on a put-back to make it 65-60 and Gonzalez hit an open 3-pointer to give the Panthers an eight-point lead.
“It was a close game. Both teams wanted to win, they were both playing their hearts out,” Peters said. “We’re used to this situation. We knew what we had to do.”
Kordell Johnson, who became the first Storm player to surpass 1,000 career points in a quarterfinal win over Harmony Tuesday, led Celebration, 17-9, with 24 points.
“The thing I liked about our guys is that they never quit. They made a nice run to make it close,” Storm Coach Jeff Bean said.
Panthers Coach Bob Baker said, “We were fortunate. What I will say about our guys is that they never get rattled, no matter what the situation. We have a group of seniors who know what they are supposed to do.
Giovanni Guzman scored 13 for the Panthers and Juan Mena added 11.
Chris Bowman had 10 for Celebration.
Osceola’s speed and depth was too much for Lake Nona, 16-12, Friday as the Kowboys forced 14 first half turnovers while building a 37-27 halftime lead that ballooned to 25 points in the fourth quarter, 72-47.
Cortez Edwards (18), Alain Allard (14) and Jamey Morris (12) led the Kowboys onslaught.
“It’s been almost two weeks since we’ve played. We came out with a lot of spring in our legs, kind of the way we did over the holiday break for the (Great Florida) Shootout,” Osceola Coach Nate Alexander said. “We’ve got a bunch of seniors who haven’t won anything yet. I tell them that all the time. This is our time.”
The winner of the 7A-5 championship will host a 7A-2 regional playoff Thursday at 7 p.m. The loser travels to the 7A-6 champion.
Poinciana led Lake Wales, 48-47, with three minutes to play before the Highlanders rallied and hit 5 of 6 free throws in the last minute to hold off the Eagles, 21-8. Marquise Strickland scored 16 and Isaiah Moody added 15 for the Eagles. Lake Wales, 15-12, played Winter Haven for the 6A-8 championship Saturday.