Elizabeth Forward girls improve to 7-0 with assistant coach at helm

| Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, 10:57 p.m.

Elizabeth Forward was without its coach Thursday night, but it didn't keep the Warriors from staying unbeaten in girls basketball.

With assistant Mark Ferguson manning the bench in place of ailing Sam Kosanovich, Kylie Owoc scored 19 points, and No. 3 Elizabeth Forward breezed past visiting Thomas Jefferson, 75-53, in a Section 4-AAA game.

Kosanovich, who led Elizabeth Forward to the WPIAL Class AAA championship game in 2012, was sidelined with an unspecified illness and called on Ferguson, a third-year assistant, to lead the team.

“It's nothing serious that we know of,” Ferguson said. “He just needs to take a little time off. We're expecting that he'll be back after New Year's.

Elizabeth Forward (7-0, 3-0) is scheduled to face McKeesport on Dec. 27 at the Elizabeth Forward Betsy Invitational Tournament before traveling to Brownsville for a section game on Jan. 2.

“We have a veteran team,” Ferguson said. “Our system is in place here, and the girls did a good job of executing tonight.”

Natalie Fekula scored 16 points, Alison Pastore added 12 and Abigail Sporio had 10 for Elizabeth Forward, which scored more than 20 points in each of the first three quarters and led 72-38 early in the fourth before both teams played the remainder of the way with mainly reserves.

“The thing that we really preach is there are no superstars,” said Ferguson, whose tie with Kosanovich goes back to his college playing days at Point Park, where Kosanovich first spent time as a men's assistant before taking over as women's coach.

The two came to Elizabeth Forward for the start of the 2011-12 season.

“We preach a team concept,” Ferguson said. “So far, it's been a team effort. One day it could be Kylie (Owoc) getting our points, the next day maybe it'll be Natalie (Fekula), the next day maybe somebody else.”

Elizabeth Forward took a 25-14 lead after the first quarter on strong shooting. Fekula and Pastore scored eight points each during the early run.

The Warriors built the lead to 46-25 at halftime as Owoc finished with 14 points, including three 3-pointers, at the break.

“We just couldn't stop them,” said Thomas Jefferson coach Phil Shar, in his first season with the Jaguars after a long and successful run at West Mifflin. “We did all right on the offensive end. I was encouraged. But we need to improve our defense.”

Thomas Jefferson's lineup includes two freshmen starters, and Shar said he's happy that his team had the opportunity to face Elizabeth Forward early in the season.

“It will be good for us. They're way more experienced with four starters back,” Shar said. “We played a lot of young kids, but they played hard.”

Senior Alexis Yanief scored 19 points, and freshman Haley Zoglmann added 16 for Thomas Jefferson (4-3, 1-1). Yanief scored the Jaguars' first 11 points and finished the first half with 14.

A 22-13 edge in the third quarter gave Elizabeth Forward a 68-38 advantage, and the Warriors stretched their lead as many as 34 points in the fourth quarter.

“We try to shut people down. We want to shut people down,” Ferguson said. “We talk about that all the time. We weren't too successful with Yanief. But we were able to score points early. We came out on fire, and that was a pretty nice surprise.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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