Elizabeth Forward smothers Mt. Pleasant in PIAA Class AAA 2nd-round game

| Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 10:36 p.m.

Elizabeth Forward and Mt. Pleasant were informed earlier in the day that the site of their PIAA Class AAA girls basketball playoff game was being changed to Hempfield from Fox Chapel, a closer venue for both with a winter weather advisory in effect for Western Pennsylvania.

The way the Warriors handled the Vikings in the second round Wednesday night, it probably wouldn't have mattered where the teams played.

Alison Pastore scored 17 points, Kylie Owoc added 16 and Elizabeth Forward used full-court pressure defense to score a 55-37 victory over shorthanded Mt. Pleasant.

Abigail Sporio also was in double figures with 10 points for the Warriors (22-4), who advance to play District 3 fifth-place finisher Palmyra (24-4) on Saturday at a site and time to be determined.

“We've played pressure defense all year-long,” Elizabeth Forward coach Sam Kosanovich said. “It's worked for us, so we're not going to stop until it's not effective anymore.”

Elizabeth Forward used a 12-0 run between the first and second quarters and that effective pressure defense to roll to a 29-15 halftime lead. Mt. Pleasant (16-10) closed within 10 points at the end of the third quarter but could get no closer.

“We hurt ourselves with turnovers in the first half,” Mt. Pleasant coach Scott Giacobbi said. “The pressure got the best of us. That's the best we've seen all year.”

The Vikings were playing their second PIAA playoff game without their injured leading scorer Alexa Szelong, who also sat out their first-round overtime victory over District 6 champion Huntingdon on Saturday after undergoing knee surgery earlier in the week.

Szelong was averaging 18.5 points per game. Without her, Mt. Pleasant couldn't stay with WPIAL counterpart Elizabeth Forward, the district's fourth-place team. Elaina Fearer led Mt. Pleasant with nine points.

“Those 18 points might have come in handy,” Giacobbi said, glancing at the scoreboard, which revealed the final 18-point margin. Mt. Pleasant was the WPIAL's fifth-place team.

After Mt. Pleasant closed within 41-31 after three quarters, Elizabeth Forward regained composure and pulled away, outscoring the Vikings, 14-6, over the final eight minutes.

Pastore and Owoc each scored 10 second-half points, with Pastore scoring all of her total after the first quarter.

“She's a very underrated player,” Kosanovich said of Pastore, a 5-foot-6 senior guard. “She plays hard and she plays in-your-face defense.”

The same could be said of the entire Elizabeth Forward lineup.

“We started out slowly in the first quarter, but we picked it up and played like we want to get to Hershey (for the championship game),” said Owoc, a 5-8 senior guard who leads Elizabeth Forward's balanced scoring with an average of 14.1 points per game. “Everybody contributes. It's worked well for us.”

Palmyra, the District 3 fifth-place finisher, awaits Elizabeth Forward after defeating District 1 third-place finisher Merion Mercy Academy, 69-57.

“Oh, yes, there are some fine players down east,” Kosanovich said. “We're going to have to learn to adjust to whatever comes our way. Tonight we didn't always do that against Mt. Pleasant. They did a good job getting us out of sync on offense. Nothing is an easy ticket at this stage. They played us well defensively.”

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