Uniontown tops Elizabeth Forward to reach WPIAL semifinals
By Mark Kaboly
Published: Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, 10:33 p.m.
Elizabeth Forward coach Gerald Grayson and Uniontown coach Rob Kezmarsky agreed on one thing: Neither team had anything left to give.
Elizabeth Forward rallied a 22-point, first-half deficit, and Uniontown did all it could to fend off a second-half onslaught, prevailing to earn its first semifinal appearance in 12 years.
Xavier Ellis hit a 3-pointer and followed with a steal and layup late in the fourth quarter of a tie game, and the No. 5 Red Raiders hit 9 of 13 foul shots down the stretch in an 86-79 Class AAA quarterfinal win over No. 4 Elizabeth Forward (20-4).
Uniontown (21-1) will advance to take on No. 1 Chartiers Valley (23-1) on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. It will be Uniontown's first semifinal game since 2002, when the Red Raiders went on to win the Class AAAA title.
“People tend to forget that we've made it to the round of eight the past three years,” Kezmarsky said. “But I am proud of these kids. They worked hard and gave it their all out there.”
Jordan Pratt led Uniontown with 18 points, and three of his teammates added double figures — Joseph Campbell (20), Ellis (18) and Jeremy Perkins (14). Perkins added 13 rebounds.
Elizabeth Forward, which needs Uniontown to beat Chartiers Valley to qualify for the PIAA playoffs, got 23 points from Jaquaun Davidson and 19 from Austin Matta, while Jason Brooks added 14. George Prota chipped in with six points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
“We came back from so far and we fought, and I don't know if we had anything left,” Grayson said. “We just couldn't fight anymore. It was an uphill battle from the start.”
Uniontown's full-court press gave Elizabeth Forward fits early on.
The Warriors turned over the ball seven times in the first quarter and 11 times in the half which helped the Red Raiders race to a 36-14 lead three minutes into the second quarter.
“You don't see that many points scored in a high school game too often,” Kezmarsky said. “When we press, we can score 100 points per game. When we pressed tonight up 34-14, they called fouls.”
Uniontown turned the ball over eight times in the third, and despite hitting 7 of 9 shots from the floor in the quarter, led only 58-54 heading into the final quarter.
After Uniontown took a 62-54 lead early in the fourth, EF rattled off a 9-1 run and when Davidson hit a short jumper with 5:37 left, the game was tied at 62-62.
“Our kids were tired,” Kezmarsky said. “I know we had nothing left after that. They are a very good team.”
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.
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