EF girls shake off WPIAL loss, cold shooting to advance in PIAA
Sure Elizabeth Forward's shooting wasn't very good. The Warriors missed a lot of layups — 17 to be exact — and they were playing against a team that dressed only seven and played six. But those details are meaningless to Sam Kosanovich.
“In the end, these girls did what they had to do,” he said.
And in the end, those girls did something that no Elizabeth Forward team has done in 27 years: win a state playoff game.
It took a half for Elizabeth Forward to shrug off last week's WPIAL championship game loss to South Park before finally putting away Central Valley, 51-44, in a first-round PIAA Class AAA playoff game Saturday at Baldwin.
It was Elizabeth Forward's first state playoff win since March 14, 1986, when the Warriors beat Butler, 46-40, in a second-round game. They would lose in the quarterfinals to Altoona a couple days later.
“This team continues to accomplish big things,” Kosanovich said. “Your goal is always to get better than the year before but never be satisfied.”
Elizabeth Forward (23-3) will take on Franklin (25-1) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Slippery Rock's Morrow Fieldhouse.
Even though EF shot only 23 percent from the floor against Central Valley, Kosanovich was impressed with how his team was able to put the championship game loss behind it so quickly.
“I really think we are over that game,” Kosanovich said. “We approach it as another game, and we have to come out and play the game the same way whether it is after a win or a loss. Nothing should change. Every game we play should be approached the same way.”
Central Valley (18-6) can attest to that.
The two teams met in the WPIAL quarterfinals two weeks ago with EF coming away with a 66-45 win. In that game, EF used and inside-outside attack. This time, they stuck to the inside despite Central Valley center Kiana Law, who was suspended for their first meeting, being back in the lineup.
Dana Buck scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while Natalie Fekula added 11 points and 11 rebounds. The duo combined for 21 points and 14 rebounds in the decisive second half.
“We got outrebounded badly on the inside, and they got a lot of second chances,” Central Valley coach Chris Wagner said. “Still, if you told me before the game that we would hold them to 51, I'd like our chances. We got the looks but couldn't convert.”
Central Valley got 22 points and 13 rebounds from Seairra Barrett while Madi Rowan added 12 points and Law eight. The rest of the team managed only two points — an all-too-familiar sight for Wagner.
“We have been playing like that all year, and we never had a problem with that,” Wagner said about playing only six. “We weren't tired, so that's not an excuse. Our problem was that we just didn't shoot the ball well at all. We couldn't throw it in the ocean in the first half.”
Neither could EF.
Elizabeth Forward missed 12 first-quarter shots — eight were layups — but led 11-6 after one and 20-18 at the half.
“We came out a little cold in the first half,” Kosanovich said. “We had some great opportunities to build a little bigger lead than what it was. (Layups) were a problem. We have to finish better.”
Leading 26-24 midway through the third quarter, Elizabeth Forward finally started to hit shots, and they came from Buck and Fekula.
Elizabeth Forward went on a 13-5 run over the final 4:47 of the third with Buck scoring eight and Fekula five to push EF's lead to 39-29.
Central Valley got the deficit to 45-40 late in the game but four foul shots sandwiched around a Buck layup gave the Warriors the win.
“Now we just want to take it one game at a time and go as far as we can,” Kosanovich said.