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Gateway sinks key free throws to avoid upset

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On paper, the game between the visiting Floyd Broncos and Gateway Christian Warriors was anything but an easy win for the Warriors. There was such angst that Gateway Christian athletic director Justin Stephen went behind the bench and yelled, “C’mon, handle the ball” to the Warriors during a timeout.

Gateway had just turned the ball over and Floyd had a chance to take the lead or tie the game as Gateway held a 32-31 lead with 3:53 left to play in the game. The Broncos’ Patrick Terry had a good look at the basket and missed a shot.

Gateway’s Wes Tipton would coolly step to the free throw line and make the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw to give the Warriors a lead they would never relinquish. He would also hit another free throw with 13.4 seconds left to preserve a 43-39 victory Friday night at the Red Rock Warriors Center.

“I was aware of the free throws, Tipton said. “I didn’t feel any pressure, I don’t know how I didn’t hit the second free throws on both shots. I just thought this was like practice.”

Gateway Christian, (12-5, 2-0 district), was led in scoring by senior Jaydon Stephens, who had five assists, seven steals and three rebounds to go with 17 points. Joe Waide had good looks and scored seven points. Waide would cross the Broncos up and put the ball on the floor and go to the basket to do his damage.

The hero of the game was junior big man Tipton, who would hold his own against the bigger John McDonald of Floyd. Tipton would end up getting McDonald to miss shots from point-blank range that could have given Floyd the lead.

“He (McDonald) kind of wore me down,” Tipton said. “He was pretty big and physical. I was looking for my shot, but it wasn’t on.”

Gateway Christian will take the win, which keeps them tied with Tatum as the only undefeated teams in District A play.

“We are fortunate to get out of here with a victory tonight,” Gateway Christian coach Daniel Smith said. “I didn’t feel like we took care of the ball as we should have, but we did some good things going down the stretch.”

Going forward, coach Smith knows his team’s road is going to have to go through Tatum. He would like to see his defense continue to get better as the season progresses.

“I feel like we have the second toughest district,” Smith said. “I told our boys that no game is a given, we have to play every night.”

Gateway returns to action at 7 p.m. at home on Tuesday.

Gateway Christian girls
Gateway Christian 47, Floyd 43

Gateway’s Taylor Higgins (#24) goes up for a shot while surrounded by Floyd defenders Friday night at Gateway High School. (David Rocha Photo)

Talk about a fire and brimstone speech at half-time stressing defense, Gateway Christian coach Holly Tipton got her girls to listen and play a little bit better than Floyd’s coach did.

In the first quarter, Floyd would score 16 points to take a 16-14 lead, but that wouldn’t hold up as the Lady Warriors scored 16 points in the second quarter as Floyd scored 14 points to take a 30-30 tie into halftime.

Gateway Christian, (10-4, 1-1), whose defense clamped down and held the Lady Broncos to one point. The third quarter wasn’t a scoring bonanza for Gateway as they managed to score four points. In the fourth quarter, Gateway outscored Floyd, 13-11, to win the game, 47-42 at home on Friday night.

“We made some changes on defense,” Tipton said. “We went to a different defense where we attacked a little bit from the wing.”

Coach Tipton feels like her team is working hard and improving on the season. Tipton notes that Tatum is going to be tough and Elida as well, but looks forward to the challenge with her captains in senior Aleina Shaw and juniors Sierra Fresquez and Kaylee Stephens.

One of the main differences between the teams this year and last year is the Lady Warriors are healthy. Last season the Lady Warriors had two players with torn ACLs, one coming from volleyball and the other a basketball injury. Both players are back.

“I hope that we learn how to keep on preserving,” Tipton said. “Coming into the season, I thought we had the team to do some good, actually, a lot of good.”

Gateway is going to be positioned to be good for a long time to come. The only senior on the team is Shaw and they have Hannah and Sarah Lilley along with Lauren Hunter as freshmen on the team and then eighth-grader M.J. Stephens plays. According to Tipton, Stephens plays really smart on the court.

Gateway Christian will face-off against Elida at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday at home.