By Alex Tam
Gateway boys basketball coach Greg Grossman is aware he has a ton of talent at his disposal.
After an encouraging 17-3 season a year ago, the Gators are off to another hot start after pulling away late to defeat Galileo 64-56 in non-league play on Wednesday at Gateway High School.
Three of the Gators’ (4-0) wins have been at home, but Grossman knows his biggest challenge is transforming that talent into more consistent play on the floor.
“We did some things really well and then, we looked really bad the next series,” Grossman said. “We just got to play smarter. We’ve got some guys who hadn’t played a ton in the past that are learning and we’ve just got to be smarter in the end-of-the-game situations.”
Gateway took a 45-38 lead after a three-pointer from Diego Bustos with 7:01 remaining in the fourth quarter, but the inconsistency that Grossman harped on reappeared.
Galileo’s (2-3) full-court defense forced multiple turnovers, which led to an 8-0 run in just over a minute of game time.
Chris Lee’s three-point play gave the Lions a 46-45 lead with 5:45 left to cap a miraculous turnaround.
“We go through these lulls and that goes back to consistency,” Grossman said. “We don’t have it, so it’s up and down, and up and down.”
But the Gators responded with a run of their own that proved to be the difference. The Gators held Galileo scoreless for more than four minutes of game time down the stretch and Gateway’s ensuing 13-0 run pushed its lead to 58-46 with 2:05 remaining.
“I thought the game followed a very similar pattern, in which it was just spurts by each team,” said Galileo head coach Jeremy Lee. “I think that if we were smart, we would have recognized that – that it was probably going to happen and we needed to clamp down and play better defense, and we didn’t.”
Lee said a big factor in the fourth came down to Bustos and teammate Fernando Portillo, who each hit 3-pointers at crucial times for their lone field goals of the game.
“They had a couple guys that made big shots that hadn’t made shots earlier in the game,” Lee said.
After the Gators built a 12-point lead, Galileo cut the advantage to 62-56 with 29 seconds left, but Gateway’s Asante Munson sealed the game with two free throws.
“We have some guys who play with some great energy,” Grossman said. “We’ve got to be more consistent with that energy and when they do, it feeds off each other. When one guy makes a play, another guy makes a play, and all of a sudden, we’re rolling.”
The Gators had four players score in double figures, led by Xavier Byrd’s 19 points, 14 of which came in the second half. Senior center Kenechi Anigbogu also muscled his way to 14 points, Sheden Mekonnen added 11 and Munson had 10.
Galileo was led by Lee’s 17 points and Jacob Glason added 13, including 10 in the second half. Brion Gregorson chipped in 12.
The Lions’ poor shooting also played as role, as they shot just under 32 percent from the field and 9-of-19 from the free-throw line.
Xavier Byrd – 19
Kenechi Anigbogu – 14
Sheden McKonnen – 11
Asante Munson – 10
Evan Derheim – 4
Chris Lee – 17
Jacob Glason – 13
Brion Gregorson – 12
Isaac Armstrong – 7
Ken Rivera – 3