EF's Sporio dazzles foes with dribbling prowess
When Abigail Sporio was a little girl, her parents used to take her to the playground to play basketball. She loved to hold onto the ball and play keep-away with the adults.
Sporio is still dribbling through and around anyone who gets in her way.
As the starting point guard the past two seasons for the Elizabeth Forward girls team, the 5-foot-7 junior is hoping to help the Warriors earn another trip to the WPIAL Class AAA championship game, where they were beaten by South Park last year at Palumbo Center.
Coincidentally, the two teams will meet in the semifinals Wednesday at Chartiers Valley.
“I love to play point guard,” she said. “I would love to be the point guard for a team at the next level.”
Her high school coach, former Point Park University coach Sam Kosanovich, thinks she's on her way.
“We talk to her all the time about learning the finer points of the game,” Kosanovich said. “She has all the tools of being a quality player at the next level. She's so quick. She's very hard to pressure. She goes to her left or to her right equally well and lays it up either way, and that's essential for a college prospect.”
But it might be Sporio's defense that sets her apart from others. Following a 72-47 victory over Central Valley on Saturday at West Allegheny in the quarterfinals, Sporio is averaging 12 points, five rebounds, seven assists and seven steals.
She led the second-seeded Warriors (20-3) with a career-high 21 points as Elizabeth Forward used a 20-0 run in the first half to take down 10th-seeded Central Valley.
Kylie Owoc added 17 points, and Olivia Barkley 12 for Elizabeth Forward.
Kiana Law, a Missouri-Kansas City recruit, paced Central Valley with 32 points. Seairra Barrett, the WPIAL's leading scorer, was held to six.
Sporio still has another year left at the high school level after her current season is done. She's hoping to play quite a few more games this year, perhaps more than in 2012-13. Elizabeth Forward ended a 24-4 season a year ago with a 65-45 loss to District 10 Franklin in the PIAA second round.
“This season has been great so far,” Sporio said. “This group works so well together. We're just a really good team.”
But the Warriors still have something to prove before they can move on.
“I'm 0-5 against South Park,” Kosanovich said.
Elizabeth Forward lost its regular-season finale at defending WPIAL champion South Park, 65-48, on Feb. 10 and will get a chance at redemption in the next round.
“I thought we would make it this far since the beginning of the year,” Sporio said. “We lost two starters from last year's team, but we're equal in talent this year. If we play like I know we can play, we have a chance.”
Sporio and her Warriors put on that type of show against Central Valley, shutting down a high-scoring team known also as the Warriors.
Afterward, Kosanovich contained his excitement for his players but raved about Sporio's latest offering.
“We had some very, very good point guards at Point Park,” he said, mentioning two former WPIAL standouts, April Austin (North Catholic) and Ashley Henderson (Greensburg Central Catholic). Abby is in that same class, but she's only a junior and she's still got time to improve.”
Kosanovich said Sporio's ability to quickly adapt to virtually any situation coincides with her physical quickness.
“She understands her role,” he said. “When we want to try to shut down a team's best player, we turn to her. She understands the game. On offense, she can push the ball, and she can beat you off the dribble.
“But she also can move over when needed because we've got two others who can play the point, and they do a good job,” Kosanovich said, referring to senior Alison Pastore and sophomore Jessica Palady.
With the help of her playoff-tested teammates, Sporio hopes to continue setting the pace for Elizabeth Forward, dribbling in, around and through opposing defenses, just like she did with her parents at the playground.
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.