Elizabeth Forward readies for familiar foe in PIAA
Elizabeth Forward came up short when it attempted to avenge an earlier loss to South Park when the two squared off in the WPIAL Class AAA championship game.
Now, however, the Warriors find the proverbial shoe on the other foot as they prepare to match up with Central Valley (18-5) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Baldwin in the opening round of the PIAA tournament.
“We approach every game the same way, and we approached South Park the same way we did against Central Valley,” Elizabeth Forward coach Sam Kosanovich said. “We just have to execute everything offensively and defensively and let all the side stuff, like revenge factors or whatever go because we're just going out there to play basketball.”
Central Valley may have lost a 66-45 decision to Elizabeth Forward (23-3) on Feb. 23 in the WPIAL quarterfinals, but it still owes its presence in the PIAA Class AAA tournament to the Warriors. Because they went on to post one of the most dramatic upsets of the playoffs, a 78-64 win over previously unbeaten and top-seeded Blackhawk, they dragged Central Valley into the state bracket as the No. 6 seed out of the WPIAL (District 7).
That does not mean Central Valley has forgiven Elizabeth Forward for ending its dream of a WPIAL championship.
“We were looking forward to a rematch, that's for sure,” Central Valley coach Chris Wagner said.
This will be a completely different Central Valley team than the one the Warriors faced more than two weeks ago.
In that first matchup, Central Valley was without its third-leading scorer, 6-foot-1 junior center Kiana Law, because on a PIAA-mandated one-game suspension for getting two technical fouls and an ejection in a first-round game against South Fayette. Because she couldn't play against Elizabeth Forward, it took away a punishing inside player and changed the dynamic of what Central Valley could do offensively.
“It think it was huge because of a confidence standpoint,” Wagner said. “This time we know that she'll be in there defensively, which will allow us to do some things on the back end. It will help us crash the boards and obviously she's a shot-blocker.”
With Law in the lineup, Central Valley could provide some matchup problems for Elizabeth Forward outside. The Warriors could double-team her in the low post, but that might leave openings for senior guard and leading scorer Madi Rowan (18.1 point per game) to get open on the perimeter.
It's also why Elizabeth Forward's guards, Alison Pastore, Abby Sporio and Macy Pekala — who limited Blackhawk sniper Chassidy Omogrosso to two 3-pointers and 10 free throws — might have the biggest impact in the game.
Still, Elizabeth Forward also has to show it has shrugged off a disappointing 50-32 loss to South Park in the WPIAL finals. How quickly the Warriors can find their groove will go a long way toward determining the outcome against Central Valley.
“It's another game and another day,” Kosanovich said.
“You're obviously disappointed with the (WPIAL loss) and have a letdown after the game, but then you get over it and just get ready for the next team. Our spirits are high, we're loose and we're ready to go again.”