Natalie Fekula said she and her Elizabeth Forward teammates barely slept Tuesday night because they were so anxious to play in the biggest game of their lives. Chances are they didn't sleep last night either.
Elizabeth Forward pulled the eye-opener of the WPIAL girls playoffs, stunning No. 1 and previously undefeated Blackhawk, 78-64, in a Class AAA semifinal at West Allegheny.
The win put No. 5 Elizabeth Forward (23-2) in the final for the first time since 1990. Its only title came in 1975. The Warriors will play No. 3 South Park, which defeated No. 2 and defending champion Hopewell in the other semifinal.
Few, if any, gave Elizabeth Forward a chance to beat Blackhawk (24-1), which entered the game as the WPIAL's lone undefeated team and was on cruise control for most of the season. The Cougars won their first two playoff games by 21 and 25 points, and a similar result against Elizabeth Forward wasn't too far-fetched.
"They had everything to lose and we had nothing to lose," said Elizabeth Forward's Alison Pastore, who scored a game-high 23 points.
The Warriors hit the ground running and never looked back. They led, 10-2, before the game was four minutes old and went in front, 19-10, after the first quarter. "Sometimes we get off to a slow start and it just affects the rest of the game, but today we started out on fire and ended on fire," Fekula said.
Fekula finished with 18 points and Dana Buck had 15.
After taking a 39-29 halftime lead, Elizabeth Forward wasn't really threatened. The Warriors led by as many as 17 in the third quarter, with Blackhawk getting no closer than 10. In the fourth quarter, Blackhawk cut the score to 70-61 with 2:10 left, but the Cougars got no closer.
Elizabeth Forward did a fantastic job against Blackhawk's star sophomore, Chassidy Omogrosso. The Warriors held Omogrosso -- who averages 22 points per game -- to 16 points, but all but six of those came on free throws. Omogrosso was just 2 of 17 from the field.
"We knew she was going to be good, but our guards pressured her well," Pastore said.
Alexis Graham scored 19 points and Bridgette Shaffer chipped in 13 for Blackhawk.
"I give a lot of credit to Elizabeth Forward," Blackhawk coach Steve Lodovico said. "They shot lights out tonight. They did a great job defending us. We just could never get into a rhythm offensively."
As had been the case the past few times Hopewell played South Park, Vikings star Shatori Walker-Kimbrough put forth a monstrous effort, this time scoring 39 points.
But there was giant difference between those games and this one -- South Park proved three was better than one.
Shelby Lindsay, Halie Torris and Allison McGrath combined to score 65 points to help South Park end a streak of painful losses to Hopewell with a surprisingly lopsided 75-55 win at West Allegheny.
South Park (22-2), which lost to Hopewell in last year's championship game, will attempt to win its first title since capturing the Class AA championship in 2008. Hopewell (21-4) had won three of the past seven Class AAA titles.