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Elizabeth Forward girls fall to Franklin in PIAA second round

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By Alex Oltmanns
Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 11:09 p.m.

Playing in the second round of the PIAA tournament for the first time since 1986, the Elizabeth Forward girls basketball team entered Wednesday night's Class AAA contest with high hopes of advancing to the quarterfinals.

Those hopes were dashed quickly in a 65-45 loss to Franklin on Wednesday night at Slippery Rock University's Morrow Field House. Elizabeth Forward (24-4), the WPIAL Class AAA runner-up, got off to a slow start and never led.

“We didn't score,” Elizabeth Forward head coach Sam Kosanovich said. “I think if we had scored some points in the first quarter it might be a different game. We might get some momentum and some confidence, but we didn't have the ability to score.

“I think the ability of their guards to kind of take it to the basket or hit the open man on penetration was the difference — and our inability to score some baskets.”

One of those guards was junior Angelina Starr, who had a game-high 19 points for Franklin (26-1). Her senior teammates, Mara Benvenuti and Tanasia Law, chipped in with 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Starr, a catalyst in Franklin's District 10 championship run and 19-game win streak that dates back to Jan. 7, embodied the matchup problems that plagued the Warriors throughout the game. She added six rebounds, six assists and three steals to her stat line.

“We wanted to try and get the ball inside, obviously, because that's why I kept our two bigs in,” Kosanovich said. “So it does create a little of a matchup problem because it's not fair to a forward to have to watch a guard all of a sudden. There's a lot of things maybe you could've done. Maybe you could have sat in a zone; maybe you shouldn't. But our success this year has been our man-to-man defense, and we just thought we'd stick with it.”

Junior Alison Pastore led Elizabeth Forward with 13 points.

The Warriors trailed, 25-15, at halftime and were never able to get back into the game after going on a WPIAL playoff run that led all the way to the Palumbo Center.

“We've been playing very well down the stretch, and tonight we weren't,” Kosanovich said. “A lot of the credit has got to do with the other team. They're not 25-1 for any reason. They did a great job defensively on us. We had a matchup problem I thought a lot of times, but it was a great season and ended on kind of a downside.”

Despite the loss, the 2012-13 campaign saw Elizabeth Forward go a perfect 12-0 in section 4-AAA and take steps in the right direction.

“I'm very proud of these girls. I really am,” Kosanovich said. “Yeah, no one wants to lose, and we're down. But what they have accomplished has set standards not only this year, but last year we had a little bit of a run. It has the future success that has the program excited again. We were just outplayed by a better team today.”

The Warriors lose just three seniors next year and return the core of their team, including three starters — Abigail Sporio, Natalie Fekula and Kylie Owoc — along with Pastore. But Kosanovich wants to continue to improve on the fundamentals and then see how far that can take his team.

“I think our goals will always be the same: to play the best basketball we can. And by playing the best basketball, hopefully that gets us a section title and moves on in the playoffs,” he said. “Everyone's going to say we want to win a championship, and that's obviously everyone's goal, but, in reality, we want to play good, fundamental basketball.”

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