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Gateway’s last-second heroics eliminate Dora

Gateway Christian High School sophomore Wes Tipton (5) prepares to block a shot against Dora Saturday night at Gateway. (Steve Notz Photo)

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An offensive rebound Saturday night at Gateway would be the key to deciding whether the Warriors would advance past the first round of the boys 2A state basketball tournament.

Gateway Christian High School junior Jaydon Stephens pulled up for a jump shot with time ticking off the clock. The shot bounced off of the rim and was tipped several times before sophomore Wes Tipton grabbed the rebound and put the ball back up, scoring as time expired. The crowd flooded the court as Gateway sealed a 46-44 win over the Dora Coyotes.

Excitement over being in the state tournament would play a large hand in the first half of the game. Gateway’s Joe Waide sank an early three pointer to put the Warriors on the scoreboard first. Dora responded with a basket and a free throw, leaving the game tied at three. At that point, Dora would begin to pull away from Gateway and the first quarter would come to an end with Coyotes in the lead.

“You know, its the first round of state and everybody’s amped up, and there’s almost no way to control that. You’re just ready to play and you’re super excited,” Gateway Coach Daniel Smith said. “So we were getting the shots we wanted, they just weren’t falling.”

Dora would get a scare with 6:07 left in the second quarter as senior Zac Dewbre suffered an injury on the court. After staying on the floor for a minute he was helped off the court by his coaches. As the Warriors offense continued to struggle Dora began to get into a groove. Senior Slade Hamann sank two three pointers in a row towards the end of the half, helping the Coyotes spread their lead to 26-15 at halftime.

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Gateway would come out swinging in the second half.

Its offense caught fire behind the shooting of Stephens and Alonzo Grajeda. The two would combine for 11 points, and Tipton would add one of his two three pointers on the night to get the Warriors close to their second lead of the game. Dora lead 35-31 heading into the last quarter, but Gateway’s playmakers had woken up and were ready to fight to the end.

When asked about the offensive swing Stephens helped ignite, coach Smith said, “We tried to put it in his hands there and tried to get him to penetrate and make things happen. He’s a playmaker for us and he did a great job.”

In the fourth quarter Gateway would get into foul trouble, helping the Coyotes to three fast points off of free throws. Stephens would keep his hot shooting pace going the whole quarter, sinking a three pointer with 4:47 on the clock to tie the game up once again at 38-38. As the quarter began to wind down both teams traded shots, and leads, leaving the game tied 44-44 with 18 seconds left. Stephens would shoot and miss in the last seconds, and Tipton would be there to send the Warriors on to the next round of the state tournament.

“I’m glad he made it,” coach Stephens said. “Rebounded and finished it. You know we look to penetrate and make something happen with Stephens again, they had to respect that. That left us open to crash the boards and gave Wes a chance to come in and rebound and crash the boards and finish the game for us.”

“It felt good, I didn’t realize it was at the buzzer,” Tipton said. “I thought it was a couple of seconds before so I was ready to get back on defense.”

Gateway will play No. 1 seed Magdalena on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Cleveland High School.

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