South Park girls beat Elizabeth Forward for WPIAL Class AAA title
Allison McGrath has been a dominant force inside for South Park throughout the playoffs, so there was a bit of concern when the freshman forward picked up her second personal foul only 3:21 into the WPIAL Class AAA championship game Saturday against Elizabeth Forward.
“Coach (Reggie Wells) told me to be careful and obviously I listened to him,” McGrath said. “I didn't change anything on offense or defense. I just took it down a notch until the third quarter.”
By then, the game was pretty much over as McGrath scored 13 points and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds to lead No. 3 South Park (23-2) to a 50-32 victory over No. 5 Elizabeth Forward at Duquesne University's A.J. Palumbo Center.
South Park, which lost to Hopewell in the 2012 championship game, also won the Class AAA title in 1998 and the Class AA championship in 2008.
“She's so smart even as a freshman that she's been in that situation before and she knows when to back off even without giving up anything, and she kept everything in front of her,” Wells said. “She's just a special player and it just seems like none of that affects her, and she's just going to keep on playing.”
McGrath and seniors Breanna Raymond and Shelby Lindsay combined to pull down 35 rebounds, six more than the entire Elizabeth Forward team as South Park held a convincing 53-27 edge on the glass.
“That stat surprises me,” Lindsay said. “Our coach told us to focus on that, but I didn't realize we did it that well.”
Elizabeth Forward has now lost to South Park all nine times the two teams have played since the Eagles moved back to Class AAA at the start of the 2008-09 school year, including a 60-35 win in the regular season finale.
The Warriors made only 11 of 48 (22.9 percent) from the field, this after shooting 55.6 percent in the first half during an upset win against top-seeded Blackhawk in the semifinals.
“I thought if we could come out and hit some shots early like we did in the past it would make a difference, but they were hard to stop and we gave them a lot of second and third chances. And it's hard to overcome a 2-to-1 rebounding ratio,” Elizabeth Forward coach Sam Kosanovich said. “The ball wasn't falling as well as the last two games, and that makes a difference.”
Elizabeth Forward, which was attempting to win its first WPIAL Class AAA basketball title since 1975, had an early 7-5 lead when McGrath picked up her second foul, but South Park used that as a catalyst to go on a 10-0 run to take a 15-5 lead before the end of the first quarter. The Eagles then put the game away with a 9-0 run to close the half and take a 30-11 lead into the locker room.
“I can tell you it's a much better feeling,” said Lindsay, who was part of last year's runner-up team. “We came into it knowing that we didn't want to leave with that feeling, and that experience helped us.”
Elizabeth Forward will play Central Valley in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs on March 9 at a site and time to be determined.
The Warriors won a WPIAL quarterfinal matchup between the two, 66-45, on Feb. 23. South Park will take on District 10 third-place finisher Hickory in the PIAA first round Saturday.