Indiana overcomes 4th-quarter deficit to top Elizabeth Forward in preliminary-round game
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Gerald “Puddin” Grayson has been around long enough to sense when a team is about ready to take over a game.
And When Ja'Quan Davidson's runner gave Elizabeth Forward an 11-point lead midway through the second quarter of Friday's WPIAL Class AAA preliminary-round game against Indiana, Grayson got that feeling.
Then it happened.
Davidson picked up his second and third fouls 10 seconds apart and spent the rest of the half on the bench. A fourth foul came a quarter later and a fifth a quarter after that.
With Davidson and his 22.1 points per game on the bench for nearly seven minutes, Elizabeth Forward never pulled away from Indiana.
And the Indians made them pay.
Indiana rallied from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit, outscored Elizabeth Forward 24-9 over the final six minutes, had to endure four foul shots over the final minute that would've given EF the lead and had to watch a wide-open 3-point attempt by Austin Matta roll in and out before coming away with an improbable 59-56 win at Yough.
Indiana (17-6) advanced to play fourth-seeded Beaver (17-3) on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined, while Elizabeth Forward (12-11) ended its first season under Grayson on a down note.
“We had them on the ropes but couldn't put them away,” Grayson said. “You could sense that we were about to pull away from them. But hopefully we will learn something from this.”
Davidson finished with 16 points, the majority coming in the third quarter. Davidson scored only four points on six shots in the first half and four points on four shots in the decisive final quarter.
“It was huge him getting into foul trouble, and I am not going to lie to you or apologize about it,” Indiana coach Greg Lezanic said.
Davidson's teammates did what they could in his absence and, despite only getting outscored 16-15 with him on the bench, the Warriors missed the junior point guard's presence.
“It really hurt us in the first half,” Grayson said. “We have a young team, and we have to fight through it.”
Matt Bernadowski filled in with 13 points and eight rebounds while Matta connected on a trio of 3-pointers within a span of 2:58 of the first quarter to stake the Warriors to a lead. Matta finished with 11.
The Warriors, however, had no answer for Indiana's size, in particular 6-foot-4 center Darrious Carter.
Carter scored all 21 of his points inside the paint or at the foul line and added 17 rebounds, eight of which came in the first quarter.
“We knew that they were going to be bigger than us,” Grayson said. “Teams have been bigger than us all year. Our rebounding really killed us.”
Carter's play offset a poor shooting performance by Indiana. The Indians missed their first 15 3-point attempts and finished the game 2 of 19 from behind the arc.
“When we score a couple of buckets, our confidence levels go through the roof,” Lezanic said. “But if we miss a couple, then it goes right down the drain.”
EF led 47-35 with two minutes gone in the fourth before Indiana finally got untracked. A 9-0 run, including their first 3-pointer of the game, in a span of two minutes got the Indians to within 47-44.
EF held onto the lead until 1:28 left in the game when freshman Jake Zilinskas hit a short jumper to give Indiana a 53-52 lead.
“My kids haven't quit, and they haven't quit all year,” Lezanic said. “Even when we had some tough nights, we never quit.”
EF had two chances to regain the lead at the foul line, but Davidson missed two shots and Bernadowski two more 40 seconds later. The Warriors went 7 of 20 from the foul line.
“I loved that we fought until the very end,” Grayson said. “But we came up a little short.”
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