Sports Editor

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.

Any girls basketball team that doesn’t have the panache of a City of Life squad that’s looking to defend its Class 2A state title, or the collection of outside shooters and the inside presence of St. Cloud that can score points in bunches, may get a little overlooked around town.

Don’t (over)look now, but Gateway is off to the best start (5-1) in school history, which is noteworthy since the Panthers have only logged two over-.500 seasons and two .500 years since opening in 1985.

Coach Justin Marino’s team hit a tough part of the schedule this week — they played George Jenkins Tuesday and travel to two-time district champion Haines City on Friday, then host rival Osceola (3-1 entering Tuesday’s game against Haines City) Tuesday in District 9A-7 action.

Never mind that Marino lost a starter from last year to transfer and had another choose not to play this year. The Panthers are getting nearly 24 points per game from small forward Anissa Tuitt, “high-energy defense” from shooting guard Manushca Lafortune, and versatility from forward Katelyn Cardoza.

A newcomer, freshman point guard Nerish Moreau, is averaging nearly 10 assists per game, Marino said, noting this lineup has shaken things up compared to last year.

“So far they beat Celebration by 19, a game they lost last year by 20, beat Ridge by 11 after losing by 27 and beat Harmony by 22, which they lost last year by 1,” he said. “The small group I have really bought into my system and I try not to over coach them. For this team to start off with the best record in the history of GHS girls basketball when they’re really a 5A or 6A school numbers-wise but still playing a 9A district schedule is pretty special.

“When I took the position I knew it would be an uphill battle but as long as I can continue to get the right girls to keep buying into the new culture we will have a bright future going forward. I know we’re not a state championship contender right now but regardless of our final record this will be the team that turns GHS girls basketball around.”

St. Cloud took a 66-62 win Saturday over reigning Class 9A state champs Spruce Creek, hosts of the All-In Shootout. Center Eno Inyang double-doubled with 27 points and 13 rebounds, Beka Benge added 18 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the three-point line, and Jaden Langer chipped in 12 points and eight rebounds.

The Bulldogs (6-2) host Hagerty on Friday and Tohopekaliga Tuesday in District 8A-6 action.

In other action, City of Life turned a tight game Monday against Lake Nona into a comfortable 68-58 win with a 23-point third quarter. Debra Buggs tallied 30 points and point guard Reyna Buggs had 10 assists. The Warriors made it miserable for the Lions, forcing 25 turnovers while maintaining a 15-to-6 assist-to-turnover ratio themselves.

The Warriors travel to Belle Isle Cornerstone Charter on Monday.

Liberty leveled its record to 3-3 at a 55-21 win Friday over South Lake.

Osceola hosts Harmony tonight at 5:30 p.m. and Tohopekaliga on Friday at 7, seeking their first home win.

In boys basketball, Osceola used a 36-25 second-half push to defeat Ridge, 75-64, in the Kowboys’ first 9A-7 game of the year. The teams were tied at 39 going into the half.

The Kowboys host Tohopekaliga Friday at 7 in an Orange Belt Conference game.

Gateway took a 55-41 decision over Harmony on Friday. The Panthers (3-1) host Haines City at 7:30 Friday in a 9A-7 game.

St. Cloud took a 66-62 win Saturday over reigning Class 9A state champs Spruce Creek, hosts of the All-In Shootout. Center Eno Inyang double-doubled with 27 points and 13 rebounds, Beka Benge added 18 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the three-point line, and Jaden Langer chipped in 12 points and eight rebounds.

The Bulldogs (6-2) host Hagerty on Friday and Tohopekaliga Tuesday in District 8A-6 action.

Liberty moved to 2-1 with a 54-41 win Monday over Freedom. Jaylen Williams scored 28 points to lead the Chargers.

City of Life moved to 5-1 with a 72-40 win over Port St. Lucie Morningside Academy, a possible playoff opponent, on Tuesday. Kenny Payton scored 14 points and Jeremy Santana added 6 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

In boys soccer, St. Cloud got goals from Seth Hanson, Anderson Agudelo and Erik Samuelson in a 3-1 win over Poinciana Friday to notch its first win of the year.

Celebration tuned up for a game Tuesday against Osceola with a 4-0 win over Tohopekaliga Friday. Jose Mora, Gabriel Pinheiro, Nichola Romano and Oscar Newman tallied goals, and center midfielder Matuck Machado added three assists.