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Elizabeth Forward survives West Mifflin upset bid

| Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, 11:04 p.m.
Elizabeth Forward's Natalie Fekula attempts a lay-up shot over West Mifflin's Marla Small during third period action on Monday, January 21, 2013 at West Mifflin High School. Ronald Vezzani Jr/Daily News
Elizabeth Forward's Olivia Barkley tries to block West Mifflin's Marla Small from passing the ball during the third period on Monday, January 21, 2013 at West Mifflin High School. Ronald Vezzani Jr/Daily News
Elizabeth Forward's Natalie Fekula attempts a layup over West Mifflin's Marla Small during the third quarter Monday, Jan. 21, 2013. (Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News)

There wasn't much Elizabeth Forward coach Sam Kosanovich could do except shake his head after the Warriors played Monday at West Mifflin.

His team's shooting percentage was abysmal, it committed more turnovers than he could have imagined and capped it by blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.

About the only thing that went right for Kosanovich was that, somehow, Trib Total Media's No. 3 team in Class AAA found a way to escape with a 46-42 overtime win against its Section 4 rival in the first of their two meetings.

“By no means was it a well-played game on both sides, but you have those through the season and, if you work your way through it, that's OK,” Kosanovich said. “We're fortunate to come out of here with a win.”

That might be an understatement. Elizabeth Forward (15-1, 7-0) committed an uncharacteristic 23 turnovers and made only 12 of 44 (27.3 percent) from the floor in regulation. The Warriors were especially bad with the ball trying to protect the lead in the fourth quarter as they gave it away eight times to aid the West Mifflin comeback.

“We have to be able to take of the ball better,” Kosanovich said. “Anybody in that situation, you have to be able to hold the ball find the openings, don't panic and not throw the ball away.”

While Elizabeth Forward made a plethora of mistakes, West Mifflin (6-8, 5-2) was able to chip away at the lead. The Titans finally finished their comeback when guard Paige Flore, who led the team with 15 points despite having to leave the game in the first quarter with a cut under her chin and had to switch jerseys because of blood drops, made a 3-pointer to tie the game, 36-36, with 27.8 seconds to play in regulation.

That was when West Mifflin made, perhaps, its biggest gaffe.

Senior Marla Small made an incredible play when she blocked a potential game-winning Elizabeth Forward shot and, after Flore rebounded, West Mifflin forced the ball over midcourt and called time out with 12.1 seconds remaining. With one possession and an opportunity to perhaps pull off a huge upset, the Titans went into overtime with a whimper after never even getting a good look at the basket, much less a final shot, before time expired in the fourth quarter.

“Coming out of the timeout we said we had 12 seconds left, we had a play drawn up and knew what was going on and one of our players looked completely lost out there and I'm not going to point any fingers or say any names,” West Mifflin coach Rob Yeschenko said. “It was unfortunate, but in a tie game with 12 seconds left, it would have been nice to get a shot off ... and it was unfortunate we didn't get a drive to the basket or nothing.”

West Mifflin, which also had a horrible night from the floor (17 of 56 for 30.4 percent) and went 6:48 over the second and third quarters without a point, threw away any upset chance it had with seven turnovers in the overtime. Despite the mistakes, the Titans were only down, 44-41, with 1.6 seconds left, but Flore was fouled just inside the arc and given a two-shot foul instead of three.

Though she made the first shot, she purposely missed the second hoping for a putback. But Dana Buck, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds, grabbed the loose ball and, after she was fouled, closed it out at the line for Elizabeth Forward.

“I just think you have those types of games throughout a 22-game season,” Kosanovich said. “Every game is not going to be perfect and high-scoring and, when you have this type of game, you have to be able to ... change the momentum because everything is not going to go according to plan all the time.”

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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