Elizabeth Forward's win lifts team into 1st place

| Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, 11:18 p.m.

There really isn't much to tell a team trailing by 12 after one quarter, but Elizabeth Forward coach Sam Kosanovich did his best to keep his Warriors calm.

“We talked with them about one possession at a time,” Kosanovich said. “You can't make up 10 or 12 points with one shot, so we talked about the things that brought us to this point, which was pressure defense. They showed a lot of character, stepped up and played pressure defense.”

Needless to say, Trib Total Media Class AAA No. 4 Elizabeth Forward (12-1, 5-0) not only listened intently, but it put those words to good use. They forced several turnovers and came away with a 55-49 home victory over Belle Vernon (8-4, 4-2) in the first of their two meetings. The win, coupled with West Mifflin's loss to Thomas Jefferson, gives the Warriors sole possession of first place in Section 3.

“We take it one game at a time, we're a very humble team, and that's the way we want to continue,” Kosanovich said. “We respect our opponent, we go into every game trying to play the best we can, and we take nothing for granted. Being in first place in great, but I'd rather be in first place at the end of the season, not midseason.”

Elizabeth Forward almost found itself in a three-way tie for first place with West Mifflin and Belle Vernon. The Leopards took a 20-8 lead after the first quarter, but after senior center Jessica Slagus, who led the team with 21 points, picked up her third foul with six minutes remaining in the first half, the Warriors were able to chip away and finally get a run started that got them back into the game.

“We have to remain relaxed, and in close games, we've got to stay focused and, unfortunately, we didn't do that and we fell short,” Belle Vernon coach Lisa Fairman said. “Jessica is definitely a leader on the floor and having to sit her for six minutes hurt us a little bit offensively, but that doesn't excuse the fact that we didn't step it up on defense and hold it together when she was out.”

Instead, leading 23-12 with five minutes left in the half, Belle Vernon committed eight turnovers down the stretch. Dana Buck scored 12 of her game-high 24 points in the second quarter to help Elizabeth Forward take a 26-25 lead into intermission.

“That's what you expect from a senior who's been there for four years,” Kosanovich said. “She came out and picked up the tempo and helped get us back in the game.”

What was also key for Elizabeth Forward was the stellar guard play of sophomore Abigail Sporio, who harassed Belle Vernon players all over the court and helped force quite a few of the Leopards' 13 fourth-quarter turnovers that helped the Warriors erase a 41-37 deficit.

“I still believe in my heart that we have a great team,” Fairman said. “We battle and we fight hard and we just have to continue to work hard at practice, remain composed and play fourth quarters and finish.”

Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kbarnes@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KBarnes_Trib.

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