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Warriors fight off rust, dispatch Ringgold

| Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, 11:06 p.m.

Elizabeth Forward coach Sam Kosanovich wasn't giving up, and he hoped his team was thinking the same way.

Olivia Barkley scored 12 points, including the go-ahead basket with 15 seconds left, to lead No. 2 Elizabeth Forward past visiting Ringgold 41-39 in a WPIAL Section 4-AAA basketball game Thursday night.

Barkley's jumper from the left wing gave Elizabeth Forward (9-1, 4-0) just its second lead.

“That's why you play the game. That's why you never give up,” Kosanovich said. “You play through to the end because you never know what's going to happen.”

Barkley added 1 of 2 free throws with 1.5 seconds left as the Warriors bounced back from a 10-point loss to Class AAAA Baldwin at the Elizabeth Forward Betsy Invitational on Dec. 28.

The rust from a 12-day layoff seemed to affect Elizabeth Forward, which overcame cold shooting and the presence of Ringgold's 6-foot-6 junior center, Marlena Schmidt.

“I've always told our girls, ‘If you're open, shoot it. Take good shots,'” Kosanovich said. “We were cold from the outside, but if you're going to go inside on them, you have to contend with the big girl. She altered some shots, she blocked some shots.”

Kara Foster scored 12 points, Elena Radic 11 and Schmidt 10 for Ringgold (6-6, 1-4), which lost its fifth game by a six-point margin or less and second in a row by two points. The Rams fell to Thomas Jefferson 33-31 on Jan. 3.

“It's tough on all of us. We're just coming up short,” Ringgold coach Laura Grimm said. “We've controlled these last two games and have nothing to show for it. We played poorly against Thomas Jefferson, but we seemed to do everything right tonight.”

Ringgold played without leading scorer Bailey Cooper, who was sick. She is averaging about 12 points per game.

“All the credit goes to that team,” Kosanovich said of Ringgold. “They came in here and battled us down to the wire. That had us on the ropes.”

It is the third consecutive season that Ringgold has lost a close decision on the road to Elizabeth Forward.

“We won't make excuses for losing the game to Baldwin, or for having a long layoff, or for shooting so poorly tonight,” Kosanovich said. “We were ice-cold, but I think the big girl, certainly early on, had a lot to do with things. She kept ahead of us, and their guards were penetrating very well and finding her in the middle.”

Schmidt scored six points to help Ringgold to a 19-16 first-quarter lead, but neither team matched their torrid scoring pace the rest of the way.

Foster beat the buzzer with a shot to end the first half and give Ringgold a 28-23 advantage.

After an 8-8 third quarter, Elizabeth Forward held Ringgold to three points in the fourth while rallying for their late lead.

The Warriors scored all 10 of their fourth-quarter points in the final 3:20, ignited by Abigail Sporio's 3-point shot that pulled Elizabeth Forward within 37-34.

Baskets by Barkley and Natalie Fekula put Elizabeth Forward in front for the first time, 38-37, with 2:06 left before Foster scored to give Ringgold a 39-38 edge, setting the stage for Barkley's go-ahead bucket.

“We did everything we had to do but win the game,” Grimm said. “We're going to try to keep the girls' confidence up. It's been tough.”

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

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