Physical Elizabeth Forward girls overpower Moon
Moon has played its share of tough Quad-A teams this year — five to be exact. The Tigers even played — and beat — one of the top teams in Triple-A in South Park, so you can understand why coach Doug Saklad wasn't worried about his team being overwhelmed by physical play in the playoffs.
However, Saklad's team didn't play Elizabeth Forward this year.
And following Wednesday's Class AAA first-round game against Elizabeth Forward, Saklad's definition of physicality was altered a bit.
No. 2 Elizabeth Forward pressured Moon into 29 turnovers and held the Tigers to 24 percent shooting from the floor as the Warriors advanced to the quarterfinals for the third consecutive year with a hard-fought 53-45 win at Peters Township.
“I was just texting some coaching friends telling them that we never played a team like this before, and we've played some tough ones,” Saklad said. “We played a lot of Quad-A teams, but we never played a team that is that physical on the ball.”
By the time Moon adjusted, it was too late. Despite turning the ball over 21 times, allowing 20 offensive rebounds and converting only 14 of 29 foul shots, Elizabeth Forward never trailed.
“By one point or 21 points or whether it is pretty or ugly, it doesn't matter,” Elizabeth Forward coach Sam Kosanovich said. “I have to give it to the players because they are the ones that have to go out there and make the plays. We rely on everybody, not just one person.”
Elizabeth Forward (19-3) will play Central Valley (15-7), a 53-45 winner over Mars, on Saturday at a site and time to be determined. Elizabeth Forward, which has a 61-13 record over the past three years, eliminated Central Valley in both the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs a year ago.
Elizabeth Forward had yet another balanced scoring attack led by Alison Pastore's 14 points. Kylie Owoc chipped in with 13, Abigail Sporio had 11 points and 10 steals and Natalie Fekula added eight points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks despite spending a sizeable part of the game on the bench in foul trouble.
Moon (15-8) got 16 from Amirah Moore and 13 rebounds from Abby Unis, but it was the physical play of the Warriors that Saklad couldn't get out of his mind afterward.
“Nobody, and I mean nobody, was as physical as them,” Saklad said.
Moon freshmen Deaja Quick and Isabelle Engel combined for 10 points, but were under pressure the entire game.
“That's how we play,” Kosanovich said. “Why change? It's been working for three years. We create our offense off our defense and that's what we did and what we will continue to do.”
Elizabeth Forward got off to a fast start and led 8-0 only 77 seconds into the game and was able to expand that to 29-16 following a second quarter 9-0 run.
“How well we play is how well we play defense,” Saklad said. “Offense is typically not an issue for us because we know we are going to score. Most teams when we play that kind of defense they fold. The problem was that it never got to that point. They are really a good team and they were just better than us.”
However, Moon did come awfully close to breaking EF.
Moon cut its deficit to 38-33 late in the third quarter, but couldn't get any closer. The Tigers got within six a couple times late in the fourth but EF held Moon scoreless over the final two minutes to earn the win.
“It was a very hard-fought game,” Kosanovich said. “We kept our composure and didn't panic.”