Elizabeth Forward girls out to avenge losses to South Park
Immediately after his team defeated Hopewell in the first of two WPIAL Class AAA semifinals, South Park coach Reggie Wells took a quick look ahead to the potential finals matchup.
“We have to (refocus) right away because we know that's a monster out there,” Wells said. “We know what's in store for us if we don't get focused right now.”
That would be pretty high praise for an Elizabeth Forward team that South Park defeated by 25 in their first meeting less than a month ago. But Wells was talking about Blackhawk, the No. 1 seed that was, at the time, the lone remaining undefeated team in the tournament.
And it was well before Elizabeth Forward (23-2) pulled off the biggest upset in the girls draw with a 78-64 victory over the Cougars that propelled the Warriors into their first championship game since losing, 51-26, to Penn Hills in the Class AAAA final in 1990. The Warriors are in line for their first title since 1975 when they face South Park at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Palumbo Center.
Wells did add a caveat saying, “You never know. People didn't think we would win (Wednesday), but you never know because they've got a pretty good team, too. They only lost two games.”
But he wasn't the only one who thought Blackhawk would have its way with the Warriors. After all, the Cougars had rolled through two Section 4 teams, West Mifflin and Belle Vernon — teams Elizabeth Forward had problems with during the regular season — in their first two playoff games.
In Elizabeth Forward, South Park (22-2) gets a team it is extraordinarily familiar with. In fact, it might be more apt to say the Eagles own the Warriors.
Since South Park moved up to Class AAA in the 2008-09 school year, the Eagles are 8-0 against Elizabeth Forward, including a 59-27 win in the first round of the 2009 WPIAL playoffs. They also have averaged 62.6 points in those eight games while allowing just 35.8.
All those losses, however, have motivated Elizabeth Forward like nothing else could.
“We're going for revenge,” Elizabeth Forward guard Alison Pastore said. “We know they beat us by 25 the first time, but on any day, any team can beat any other team.”
Pastore scored a game-high 23 points against Blackhawk, while forward Natalie Fekula added 20 and Dana Buck chipped in 14, but those three were relatively quiet in the 60-35 loss to South Park on Feb. 11. Buck and Fekula combined for 12 points in that game.
Elizabeth Forward also has to figure out a way to contain freshman forward Allison McGrath, who had a game-high 24 in the first meeting and scored 19 against Hopewell in the semifinals. The Warriors also have to be cognizant of senior Shelby Lindsay and junior Halie Torris, both of whom scored 23 against the Vikings and were in double figures in the first meeting.
“You have to have a short memory in the game of basketball, and you can't worry about the past,” Elizabeth Forward coach Sam Kosanovich said. “We have another day to compete and hopefully we do better.”