Elizabeth Forward clinches share of section title

| Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, 12:04 a.m.

There were a couple of extra cheers at the final buzzer, but nothing noticeable.

Even Elizabeth Forward's Sam Kosanovich didn't act like a coach whose team just won a section championship and did it by yanking that ever-present and painful thorn out of its side in rival West Mifflin.

The Elizabeth Forward girls basketball team has much more on its mind after a 57-48 victory over West Mifflin that clinched at least a share of the Section 4-AAA title.

“Sure, this is one of our goals, but our ultimate goal is to play the best basketball we can possibly play,” Kosanovich said. “The first goal is the section title, and now we want to advance as far as we can in the playoffs.”

But the win over West Mifflin (7-11, 6-4) can't be ignored:

• It was Elizabeth Forward's 15th win in a row.

• It gave the Warriors their 15th section title, and with a win over Ringgold on Monday, EF would have its first outright section title since 2004.

• It was only EF's second win over West Mifflin in its past 16 meetings.

“This is great for the team because they've worked so hard to get to this point,” said Kosanovich, who improved his two-year record to 36-7. “So when you achieve something like a section title, that's quite an accomplishment.”

EF (18-1, 10-0) had a scoring lull, hitting only five of its first 21 shots from the floor and not converting a field goal for a span of nearly nine minutes in the second half. But the inside trio of Natalie Fekula, Olivia Barkley and Dana Buck was too potent for West Mifflin.

Fekula (14 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks), Barkley (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Buck (seven points, 11 rebounds, two blocks) combined for 32 points, 32 rebounds and five blocks, while guard Ali Pastore added 14 points.

West Mifflin got a balanced scoring attack, led by Ciara Patterson's 14 points off the bench, but lost its second straight section game.

“We were looking to make a statement,” West Mifflin coach Rob Yeschenko said. “We really feel that we can be dangerous with our girls coming back and getting healthy.”

But consistent scoring was developed for the Titans on Wednesday. Some of it can be blamed on poor shooting by West Mifflin, but a lot of its troubles arose because of Elizabeth Forward's defense.

“Give EF a lot of credit, because its defense is suffocating,” Yeschenko said. “It really took our girls out of their game offensively. At times we had high-percentage shots, at times we worked the ball really well. But in the end, it all comes down to our rebounding issue. It's been an issue all year.”

EF outrebounded West Mifflin, 54-38, including 28-17 in the second half.

Leading 27-16 at the half, EF raced to a 33-20 lead early in the third. However, West Mifflin answered when the Warriors went on a dry spell from the floor.

EF didn't make a field goal during a stretch from the 4:21 mark of the third quarter until Pastore's layup with 3:30 left in the game, but the Warriors were able to hold on to a 44-36 lead.

“The story of the entire game was that we were in it but never were able to close the gap all the way,” Yeschenko said.

West Mifflin got to within 50-44 with 1:37 left, but Barkley answered with a three-point play to seal the game.

“I am very proud of the way we played, but our goal is to get to another level,” Kosanovich said.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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