EF girls know it's time to step up for PIAA playoffs

| Friday, March 7, 2014, 1:51 a.m.

When Elizabeth Forward plays Bradford in the Owls' backyard Saturday on the campus of Pitt-Bradford, don't expect any complaints from the Warriors.

There's no time for it. This is the PIAA girls basketball playoffs.

“I don't feel slighted or offended. That's the PIAA bracketing, and that's what it is,” Elizabeth Forward coach Sam Kosanovich said. “To us, it doesn't matter.

“We have to approach the game the same way we always do.”

Whether it involves a long bus ride or not, Kosanovich trusts his players understand as well.

“We just have to continue what we've done all year and do it better,” he said. “You should always play championship basketball.

“They're all good teams in the playoffs this time of year. Everyone can compete and advance.

“Bradford is a good team.”

The Owls (21-2) won their third consecutive District 9 Class AAA championship Friday at Clarion University by posting an intriguing 31-18 victory over Punxsutawney.

Both teams shot poorly — Bradford 26 percent, and Punxsutawney 24 percent.

Bradford's full-court press caused fits for the Chucks, who committed nine turnovers in the first quarter alone.

The Owls are led by senior point guard Ali Rinfrette, who scored 17 of Bradford's 31 points to boost her season average to 13.7.

She is the only Bradford player scoring in double figures.

Bradford held Punxsutawney's leading scorer, Taylor Newcome, scoreless while clamping down on the Chucks' offense.

Rinfrette scored the Owls' final seven points to help them pull away.

Elizabeth Forward (20-4) will have had 10 days to ponder its next move after bowing out of the WPIAL playoffs Feb. 26 after a 44-40 loss to defending state champion South Park in the semifinals at Chartiers Valley.

It came a year after the teams met for the 2012-13 championship at Palumbo Center, where South Park also prevailed.

“They understood what it meant being at the Palumbo Center,” Kosanovich said of his girls. “They also grasped that in the second round (of the PIAA playoffs), they got manhandled.

“You just don't walk though that. Everything has to be earned. You need to come and play.”

Elizabeth Forward opened the state playoffs one year ago by beating WPIAL counterpart Central Valley, 51-44, then fell flat in the second round.

The Warriors dropped a 65-45 decision to District 10 Franklin.

Kosanovich's crew is hoping for a different path this year. Bradford is the first order.

“We're stressing better execution, offensively and defensively,” Kosanovich said. “We want to minimize turnovers, and we want to make free throws at a rate of 75 percent. Those are intangibles to us, some things that you don't always see in the scorebook. I think they are starting to grasp the urgency of what I've been saying.”

Senior guard Kylie Owoc leads the Warriors' balanced scoring with an average of 14.0 points.

Junior point guard Abigail Sporio (13.8) and senior guard Alison Pastore (12.8) are close behind.

Pastore led Elizabeth Forward in its WPIAL semifinal-round loss to South Park with 13 points.

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

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