Sports Editor

Osceola beats Gateway, 49-45, in overtime; St. Cloud up next


When Osceola and Gateway’s boys basketball teams met Tuesday night for one of their bi-annual games, a winner was decided as usual — it took a little longer, thanks to overtime. But the real winners were the fans who packed the Kowboy gym.

On a night where the lead bounced back and never was more than four points in the second half, it was host Osceola that pulled out a 49-45 win. The Kowboys are now 8-5, have defeated four of their seven county opponents and lead the Orange Belt Conference standings.

The game was also a District 9A-7 game, and now Osceola (2-1) trails Haines City (3-0) and Gateway (0-2, 4-7 overall) needs to rally.

It was a grind of a game – Gateway led at the half but the score was just 18-17  -- and OHS Coach Nate Alexander was happy to see his team work like that for 36 minutes.

GHS Tyreek Robinson

Gateway's Tyreek Robinson fight through the lane between Osceola defenders Jeremiah (left) and Isaiah Palermo in Tuesday's 49-45 Kowboys victory.

“It was ugly, that’s for sure,” he said. “If you told me beforehand we’d hold them to 39 in regulation … I take that every time. I don’t have to say much before a game like this because Gateway is gonna bring it.

“Our defense was great, and I told them that at halftime. Offensively I expected we might struggle, with jitters with a big crowd.”

With both teams playing lock-down man defense, good looks at the basket were hard to come by the entire night. The struggles translated to the free-throw line as well, where both teams struggled (Gateway 11-for 23, Osceola 9-for-20), especially in the fourth quarter, when OHS was 1-for-6.

But Kowboys point guard Josh Marte was their steady hand. He scored a game-high 17 points, including three from the line in the overtime, and was clean handling the ball as Osceola committed just one turnover in the second half and overtime.

Isaiah Palermo, who scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds, said experience played a key role Tuesday.

OHS Josh Blazquez

OHS Josh Blazquez handles the ball Tuesday while Gateway's Will Mukuvi defends.

“We’ve been in a lot of games like this, so we knew if we got into overtime we could win it. We’re ready to go now.”

Osceola led 11-6 after the first quarter but Gateway, thanks to Collis Griffin’s (11 points, seven rebounds) six points during a 12-3 Panthers’ second-quarter run, took the momentum going into halftime – and for a bit after it as Michael Rodriguez (8 points) hit a three-pointer midway through the third quarter to put the visitors up 23-19.

Gateway led for most of the remaining regulation, when things started opening up more at both offensive ends. A steal and lay-up by Jaduhkiss Soto, who came off the bench to score 10 points, capped a 9-2 run that put OHS on top 27-25 with 2:25 left in the third.

That would be Osceola’s last lead in regulation. Orlando Martinez answered with a three-pointer to put Gateway back in front. The game would be tied twice more, including at 39 when Marte tied it with 39 seconds left on a lay-up in traffic. Osceola got the last chance to win it in regulation but Marte’s baseline jumper was too strong.

The Kowboys never trailed in the overtime, thanks to 5-for-8 foul shooting from Marte, Isaiah and Jeremiah Palermo.

Gateway, who was led by Tyreek Robinson’s 13 points and nine rebounds, still hasn’t won a game inside Osceola’s new gym, which opened in 2013, but Panthers Coach Travis James praised his team’s intensity — and hopes it sticks around.

“I told them, you give me that effort every night, we will win games,” he said. “It’s about intensity, and we can take that from this game.”

Osceola gets a rematch with Haines City, who beat the Kowboys a month ago in 9A-7 play, tonight at home at 7 p.m. Then it’s off to Orlando Saturday for the O-Town Showdown Public vs. Private event; the Kowboys take on Central Florida Christian Academy at 7:30 p.m. at Orlando Christian Prep.

Tuesday they host St. Cloud (4-7), who got a 69-53 win Wednesday over Satellite as Darien Creasy scored 21.

The Panthers are at Poinciana tonight in an OBC matchup. The Eagles are at 7-6 after narrowly falling to the reigning Class 6A state champs Leesburg, 46-42.

Liberty (8-6) hosts Harmony on Wednesday at is at Poinciana Thursday. The Longhorns sit at 5-7 after a 55-37 win Wednesday over Tohopekaliga.

In girls basketball, Gateway defeated Ridge, 62-52, Tuesday in 9A-7 play. The Panthers, at 10-5 off to the best start in school history, host district-leading Haines City on Tuesday with the top spot in 9A-7 on the line.

St. Cloud got revenge for a buzzer-beating loss last year to Celebration with a 59-23 win over the Storm on Tuesday. The Bulldogs (13-2) face five District 8A-6 games in the next two weeks, starting with rival Harmony at home Tuesday at 7 p.m …

… In a matchup of two teams that reached the state tournament last year, City of Life Christian (Class 2A champs) downed Orlando Christian Prep (3A runner-up), 54-43. Th Warriors (12-3) have won eight in a row and 12 of their last 13.