The saying goes something like, "It's as easy as 1-2-3."
Well, the Gateway girls have decided to do things a little out of order.
They're using the 2-3 to try to get to No. 1.
Fueled by a 2-3 zone defense that gave No. 2 seed North Allegheny fits, No. 7 Gateway got off to a fantastic start and hung on to upset the Tigers, 50-43, in a WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal Friday night at Fox Chapel.
Gateway (20-4) raced to a 14-1 lead as North Allegheny (20-4) missed its first nine shots and made just two of its first 18 field-goal attempts. The Tigers did not make a field goal until there was 1:14 left in the first quarter. They finished the first half 4 of 24 and fell behind, 26-14.
"We didn't expect that," said Gateway coach Cornelious Nesbit, who has the Gators in the semifinals for the first time since 2009. "They're a good team. Some of [North Allegheny's shooting woes] was because of us and some was because of them. We thought if they had an off shooting night, we had a chance."
Gateway will play No. 3 Bethel Park (21-3) Tuesday in the semifinals. The Black Hawks defeated No. 6 Penn-Trafford, 43-34, in another quarterfinal. Bethel Park, along with fellow semifinalists Mt. Lebanon and Chartiers Valley, hail from Section 4.
North Allegheny boasts the top scoring defense in Class AAAA (34 points per game), but Gateway continued to prove its defense is no slouch either. The Gators surrender only 39.1 points a game and held Oakland Catholic to 40 in the first round.
"Our zone is our specialty," senior forward Maria Taylor said. "We play a tight 2-3 and it's worked for us."
Taylor led Gateway with 13 points, and Katey Wilson and Jada Epps added 10 points apiece. Abby Gonzales was the only North Allegheny player in double figures scoring, finishing with 11.
After shooting miserably in the first half, North Allegheny stayed within striking defense and made its move in the fourth quarter. After Wilson made two free throws 36 seconds into the quarter to put Gateway ahead, 39-27, North Allegheny responded with a 9-0 run -- sparked by five Gators turnovers -- to pull within 39-36 after Maddie Nellis made a 3-pointer with 4:27 left.
Nesbit then had his team switch to a man-to-man defense, and Gateway limited North Allegheny to just one field goal the rest of the game. The Gators made 11 of 15 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Taylor played a huge role in the win, particularly in the second quarter when she scored 10 of her team's 12 points. Taylor and the Gators were strong on the offensive glass throughout.
Said North Allegheny coach Sherri McConnell: "We dug ourselves a hole early and we never could get out of it."