Elizabeth Forward loses to South Park in nonsection showdown
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Elizabeth Forward has won 20 games this year, but on the eve of the WPIAL playoff pairings meeting, the Warriors had a lot to prove.
Maybe not to each other, but surely to the basketball committee drawing up postseason brackets.
Of Elizabeth Forward's 20 wins, 17 have come against teams with losing records. Ending the season with a victory over Section 5-AAA champion South Park would go a long way in silencing critics and cementing the Warriors as one of the top seeds in the Triple-A playoffs.
Or it might just create more questions.
South Park used a stifling defense to hold Elizabeth Forward to its lowest offensive output of the season in snapping the Warriors' 17-game winning streak with a 60-35 nonsection road win.
“I really don't agree that we haven't played good teams,” Elizabeth Forward coach Sam Kosanovich said. “I think we play a lot of good teams in the section and during the regular season. But there is no debating that South Park was a much better team than us tonight.”
Elizabeth Forward (20-2) is 3-2 against teams that finished the regular season above .500 and 17-0 against teams with losing records.
“Listen, nobody is going to win a WPIAL championship based on the outcome of this game,” South Park coach Reggie Wells said. “Everybody knows that they are a better team than they showed. This was a win-win for us because if we win, it's a good win. If we would've lost it would've prepared us for the type of teams we are going to meet in the playoffs.”
Kosanovich, who has lost only eight games since taking over at EF last year, already is describing the loss as a possible learning experience.
“The character of a person is not when they are winning, but when they are losing,” Kosanovich said. “Sure, we've won 20 games, but the top five teams in the bracket are going to be teams just like we played. If you want to try to win a championship, you are going to have to beat teams like that. Tonight, we just got beat by a much better team.”
Elizabeth Forward had no answer for South Park's hybrid zone defense that put tremendous pressure on the ball. EF turned the ball over 23 times and attempted only 38 shots.
“Every shot we had was contested,” Kosanovich said.
Also, the Warriors couldn't slow down freshman Allison McGrath, who scored a game-high 24 points — 15 of those coming in the first half. Halie Torris added 12 and Shelby Lindsay 10 for South Park (19-2).
Elizabeth Forward received 10 points from Olivia Barkley. Leading scorers Dana Buck and Natalie Fekula combined for only 12 points.
“We have to rely on our defense because our offense still isn't clicking on all cylinders,” Wells said. “We are finally realizing that we have to play that kind of defense all the way through.”
Elizabeth Forward opened up a 6-2 lead midway through the first quarter, but South Park fought back to take a 13-11 lead by the end of the period.
It was all South Park after that.
Three-pointers by Lindsay and McGrath to start the second opened up a 19-11 lead. South Park would expand that to 10 by the half and by 17 at the end of the third by holding Elizabeth Forward to two field goals in a span of 14:52.
“They were a better all-around team than us,” Kosanovich said. “They are very strong and very aggressive defensively. They have people who can shoot the ball and who can score. Taking nothing away from South Park, but we need to play much better than we did.”
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.
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