Gateway Christian had to find a replacement for Dan Smith, who retired at the end of last season. Smith desired to be a dad and watch his daughters grow up. The Warriors wasted no time in naming assistant coach Jerryme Ledesma as his replacement.
Ledesma proved to be a good choice as he led five seniors into a successful season. Ledesma talks about his first year on the bench.
“This past season was quite a ride,” Ledesma said. “We had a lot of high team moments but also had some low ones. Much to our surprise, we did not qualify for the state tournament and that was obviously the lowest of lows for us.
“Due to this, our season didn’t turn out the way we had imagined, and we failed at reaching some of our team goals. We felt we had a team capable of making a deep run in the state tournament, and that was a huge disappointment to not be selected.
“Looking back, the point that led to us ultimately not being selected for the state was a 60-49 loss to Floyd on Feb 11. I also believe that loss motivated us to play our best basketball of the season. We responded by defeating No. 3 (at the time) Elida, 72-64 at home, and then the next week, No.3 Tatum, 73-71 on the road.
“We are proud of the fact that we handed Tatum their only loss in district play. After that win, we believed we were beginning to peak at the right time, and we were poised to make a run in the district tournament. We won the second-round game we played, but lost a nine-point third-quarter lead and fell to Dora on the road. We didn’t know that loss would be our last game of the season.
“Looking back on the season, I am beyond proud of the boys and even though things didn’t pan out the way we wanted, we enjoyed a successful season. We finished with winning records, both overall (16-10 overall and 6-4 in district) and tied for second place in the district.
“We faced adversity and responded by beating two of the top teams in our class. Elida finished in the top eight, and Tatum in the top four. We were able to see the boys step out of their comfort zones, (and) challenge others to raise their level of play.
“Our goal here at Gateway Christian is to compete with class and most importantly: Honor God with the way we play basketball. It was a blessing to be able to coach these seniors for four years and to see them grow into the men they are today, and will continue to grow into.”
Gateway loses five seniors: Wesley Tipton, Joe Waide, Joel Perry, Jacob Swann and Chase Winkler.
“We are going to be a young group next year, losing five seniors and only one returning senior (Travis Pirtle). We are looking to see Travis build on the progress he made this past season and step into a leadership role.
“We are also looking into seeing growth and improvements from juniors Luke Tipton and Hurley Breedyk. Travis and Luke played a lot of minutes for us last season and once Hurley was cleared to play, he stepped into a big role as well.
“We’ll be looking to these three guys to really step up and produce for us on both ends of the floor. We also have a great group of sophomores who showed tons of improvement over the course of last season as freshmen.
“As freshmen, they have logged a whole lot of junior varsity minutes and were able to get some varsity time under their belts. These include Hayden Wigley, Jace Worley and Elijah Perry. We’re looking forward to spending some time in the gym and developing these boys and also our kids who mostly played junior varsity and our incoming freshmen. We are a young group, but we have a lot of good athletes and young men who enjoy putting in hard work and competing.
Wesley Tipton: “We are proud to announce that Wesley was named all-region and all-district. Wesley had an amazing season,” Ledesma said. “He was a huge presence on both ends of the floor. Most of the season, Wes had to play through being double- and even triple-teamed but he did not let that stop him from impacting games. Over the season, Wes averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks a game. There were many games Wes put us on his back and led (us) to victories. In our win against Tatum, he turned it up to another level and dropped 31 points. With the way Wes worked this year and the growth he made as a player, he is well-deserving of both these honors.”
Joe Waide: “Our guard Joe Waide had a big senior year, made all-region and all-district,” Ledesma said. “I can’t say enough about Joe, he played amazing all season and him being honored with being selected to both teams shows the quality of his play. Joe saw the other team’s best defender, game after game, and at times had to face double teams when he would get the ball in the half-court. Joe was really important for us because we could single-handedly affect the way opponents would defend us. He would stretch the defense with his range behind the arc and would really open it up for our post inside. Joe averaged 12 points and 3 assists this year.
All-district honorable mentions
Joel Perry and Luke Tipton.