Elizabeth Forward girls avoid play-in game

| Friday, March 9, 2012

Elizabeth Forward knew for almost a week that it had earned a spot in the PIAA Class AAA girls basketball tournament.

It also knew — after Hopewell defeated South Park on Saturday in the WPIAL Class AAA championship game — it would be the fifth-seeded team from the WPIAL. As a result, it would open the state playoffs with a play-in game Tuesday against the second-place finisher from the City League.

What the Warriors didn't find out until Sunday afternoon was that the City League didn't believe it had a viable second-place team to slot into the state playoffs. That meant Elizabeth Forward (18-5) essentially received a bye into the bracket and will play District 6 champion Hollidaysburg (15-8) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Altoona.

"I'm surprised and my athletic director said it was the first time he heard of a team just essentially forfeiting," Elizabeth Forward coach Sam Kosanovich said. "I don't know why."

Westinghouse (19-5) finished second in the City League playoffs but went into the state tournament as the District 8 champion in Class AAA because it lost to a Class AAAA team — Allderdice — in the championship game. Of the remaining Class AAA schools that could have entered as the District 8 second-place team, Langley was a viable candidate at 14-7, Perry finished the season 3-18 and Oliver 0-17.

"I kind of wish we would have played because we've only played two games since February ninth and now we're missing another one," Kosanovich said. "I definitely wish we could have played."

This is the first time Elizabeth Forward has qualified for the PIAA Class AAA playoffs since 2001, when it lost to District 10 champion Erie Villa Maria Academy, 50-43, at Edinboro University. Had the Warriors played a City League team, they would have been the host team and would have had a rare home playoff game.

In the WPIAL playoffs, all games are played at neutral sites.

"I never saw such excitement when I told them at that point we were going to play a Tuesday home game," Kosanovich said. "They were happy and they were so excited to play in a state game and I think their enthusiasm will just carry over to a state game anyway."

Considering how the WPIAL Class AA girls playoff bracket shook out, Steel Valley (19-6) had a pretty good idea once it lost to Bishop Canevin the semifinals that it would end up as the No. 4 seed out of District 7 and would end up with the District 10 second-place finisher. The Ironmen did not find out until Saturday that the team they would be facing would be perennial powerhouse Girard (20-4), and they had to wait until Sunday to hear that the game would be played at 6 p.m. Friday at Gannon.

Steel Valley, too, has not been to the state playoffs since 2001 when it was in Class AAA and lost to Fort LeBoeuf, 57-45, at Edinboro. The last time the Ironmen were in the PIAA Class AA playoffs was 1998, when they defeated Karns City in the first round before losing to Central Cambria in the Western Regional quarterfinals.

Girard lost to Seton-La Salle in the first round of the 2011 state playoffs.

"I guess from some of the people that I've talked to that Girard is a really good defensive club and they're going to be in your face pressuring," Steel Valley coach Kelly Sabo said. "We're really going to have to take care of the ball and do the little things well because they're a very good and fundamentally sound team."

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