Sports Editor

Gateway’s girls basketball team accomplished something Tuesday that nobody in their program — not even their seniors — had accomplished: beating Osceola.

The Panthers notched what’s believed the third win in school history, which goes back over 30 years, over the Kowgirls, 51-43, at the John Ramirez Sports Complex.

Gateway moved to 6-3 with the win, and have clinched no worse than second place in the Orange Belt Conference with one game left (Jan. 29 at Tohopekaliga).

GHS girls hoops

The Gateway Panthers girls basketball team defeated Osceola for just the third time in school history on Tuesday, and the first time for any of the current seniors.

The Panthers also moved to 1-2 in District 9A-7 play. They’ll play Osceola (5-3, 3-1 OBC, 1-2 9A-7) again at OHS on Jan. 17.

Senior Anissa Tuitt, who had 20 rebounds in the team’s matchup at Gateway last year, had another big night, scoring 17 points and pulling down 15 rebounds, but GHS Coach Justin Marino said that afterwards she was upset that “she didn’t play well enough.”

“Yeah, she wasn’t happy,” he said. “She’s been averaging in the 20s and didn’t think she shot the ball well. But that’s what you like to see in a kid, striving for more when others around her did a lot of good things, too.”

On tough night shooting for both teams, Gateway won by taking better care of the ball (they forced 27 Osceola turnovers) and winning the battle on the boards (38-30)

“I just wanted to play them straight up, man-to-man, and we did that,” GHS Coach Justin Marino said.

Osceola scored the first six points of the game, but from there it turned into a back-and-forth battle. The teams matched 9-2 runs in the second quarter, and the game was deadlocked at 20 going to halftime.

But the Panthers took control in the third quarter. They outshot and outscored the Kowgirls, 16-8, helped by the shooting of Gyomara Ramos (10 points, seven rebounds), who hit three-pointers on two of three possessions midway through the quarter. They also turned up the defensive pressure, forcing almost as many turnovers (seven) as Osceola points scored (eight).

The lead reached 12, 40-28, with just under six minutes to go, before Osceola cranked up full-court pressure of their own. The Kowgirls pieced together a 10-4 run over the next three minutes, helped by freshman Jeraliz Crespo’s seven points in the quarter off the bench, to make it a 44-38 game is 2:38 left.

But Tuitt answered by hitting a layup and getting fouled, and she hit the free throw, and with 2:18 left, the lead was 47-38, too big for Osceola to dig out of.

“When they started to press, we beat it,” Marino said. I had to remind the girls that to beat the press you have to attack it. You’d think there might be a mental block about beating Osceola, but I didn’t see it.”

Manushca LaFortune (eight points), Neri Moreau (six points, five rebounds, four assists, three steals) and Kaitelyn Cardoza (eight points, eight rebounds, two blocks) also contributed to the Gateway win.

Osceola was led by Angel Roman (10 points, three assists, six steals), Mya Lomax (eight points, seven steals) and Capreshia Morris (six points, eight rebounds, four blocks).

“I had a young group out there at the end because my freshman and sophomores were outworking the seniors,” OHS Coach Dion Byrum said.

St. Cloud, who will play the bulk of its OBC and district games after the New Year, moved to 2-0 in county and won its first District 8A-6 game of the year with an 87-8 dismantling of Tohopekliga. Everybody in the Bulldogs’ (7-2) lineup scored as the team shot 50 percent from the field.