South Xtra: Elizabeth Foward emerges as title threat
Junior forward Natalie Fekula, getting fouled by South Park's Breanna Raymond during a game last year, averages 10 points per game for Elizabeth Forward.
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At first glance, height seems to be the strength of the Elizabeth Forward High School girls' basketball team.
Watch this team play a full game, however, and its depth is what really stands out about this group.
Second-year coach Sam Kosanovich routinely goes 10 players deep and that depth is a major reason why the Warriors could have a chance to make a deep postseason run.
Through 11 games Elizabeth Forward is 10-1 overall and 3-0 in Section 4-AAA. It won the Southmoreland tip-off tournament title, outscoring Derry Area and Yough by a combined 118-24.
The Warriors traveled to Orlando, Fla. for the KSA Classic Tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. It went 2-1 playing a pair of teams from Florida and a team from Rhode Island. The Warriors also won their own holiday tournament, beating Class AAAA programs McKeesport and Norwin.
The Warriors have been doing it with a number of weapons.
Senior forward Dana Buck, who averaged 12 points and 7 rebounds per game last season, is once again the leading scorer, averaging 12 points per game. Heading into tonight's game at Ringgold, Buck has 952 career points.
Junior forward Natalie Fekula and junior forward Kylie Owoc both saw significant playing time last season and are averaging 10 and 9 points, respectively. Fekula and Buck share the team rebounding lead, averaging six per game.
The stats could be better, but Kosanovich believes the deep rotation is more important.
"[No one] plays 32 minutes," Kosanovich said. "We rotate players in and out.
"I think a couple of our players could have better numbers, but we would rather be a deep team."
Two years ago Elizabeth Forward went 7-16 overall and 2-8 in section play. Last year in Kosanovich's first season the team showed tremendous improvement, finishing 18-6 while going 7-3 in section play to finish second behind South Park.
After WPIAL realignment, South Park has moved out of the section and some have anointed Elizabeth Forward as the favorite. Kosanovich knows the move of South Park alone will not make his team a section champion.
"Section titles have to be earned," Kosanovich said. "We don't take anything for granted. A section title is a wish, our goal but you have to earn it."
In section action Elizabeth Forward made easy work of Thomas Jefferson, Brownsville and Waynesburg Central, outscoring those opponents, 192-94.
"You talk about height, Ringgold is taller than us, Belle Vernon has height, they are tall," Kosanovich said of some section rivals.
Even with South Park leaving the section, Kosanovich still wanted to play the Eagles. The teams will meet in the regular-season finale in a non-section contest.
"They have been there before, they have a great coach in Reggie Wells, they are an experienced team," Kosanovich said.
Other players in the EF rotation include senior point guard Macy Pekala, junior guard Alison Pastore, junior center Andrea Paterra, sophomore guard Olivia Barkley, Jessica Palady and freshman center Justice Mitchell.
Pekala and Buck are senior co-captains.
"We stretch teams with our depth," Kosanovich said. "We have a good mix of guards and forwards. We rotate them in and out and that has helped us immensely as far as achieving what we have achieved so far and trying to reach our goals."
First Published January 10, 2013 12:00 am