Elizabeth Forward stops Mt. Pleasant for 5th straight win

Friday, February 19, 2021 | 10:26 PM

Elizabeth Forward turned a home economics classroom at Mt. Pleasant into a makeshift locker room Friday night.

There certainly weren’t too many cooks in that kitchen.

Two players did all the heavy lifting for the Warriors, scoring 88% of the team’s points in a 42-38 victory over the Vikings in a Section 3-4A boys basketball game.

Freshman Vernon Settles scored 20 points and came up with a key block and steal in the closing seconds, and sophomore guard Zach Boyd added 17 points, 15 in the second half, to propel the second-place Warriors (8-3, 8-1) to their fifth straight victory and second in a row since a covid-19 shutdown.

“Zach and Vernon have been our go-to guys all year,” Warriors coach Matt Loftis said. “When they get hot, we ride them. In the second half, they carried us.”

Mt. Pleasant (6-8, 4-5), which went back and forth with the visitors in the first half, led 19-17 just before halftime. But Boyd took over in the third, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and a slashing layup to put the Warriors in front to stay.

The Vikings, who had a three-game winning streak stopped, stayed close despite falling behind 32-24 on a 3 by Boyd late in the third.

Ultimately, a team loaded with underclassmen outshined one full of seniors.

“Man, that is a young team,” Mt. Pleasant senior guard Nate Kubasky said. “When they’re juniors and seniors, they’re going to be nothing short of spectacular.”

Settles, the nephew of former Steelers quarterback and Steel Valey product Charlie Batch, scored 11 before halftime. But his defining moment in this game came on the defensive end against Kubasky with about 40 seconds remaining.

Kubasky had just made a 3-pointer with 2:03 to play to get the Vikings within 40-38, trimming a seven-point deficit to two. The Vikings regained possession with just under a minute left and worked the ball around the arc to get a clean look as time ticked away.

Kubasky came set from the left elbow, but Settles was there first to alter, then block the shot, and then came away with the ball and finished with a layup on the other end to make it 42-38.

“We needed a 3, so I knew I had to take the shot,” said Kubasky, who scored 10 points including three 3s. “(Settles) just came out of nowhere and made a great play.”

The Vikings ran out of time from there and could not rally like they did in a 58-54 win at Elizabeth Forward earlier in the season.

“I am very surprised at how poorly we shot the ball at home,” Vikings coach TJ Kravits said. “For us to be in that game was a miracle in and of itself.”

Senior 6-foot-5 forward Jonas King, who led Mt. Pleasant with 14 points, had three dunks, the third of which cut it 40-35 with 2:20 to play.

Mt. Pleasant used a 2-3 zone to try to slow down the Warriors, but Settles had success getting to the rim in the first half, and Boyd in the second.

“Their zone gave us some issues,” Loftis said. “But our guys did a good job getting to the basket.”

Senior Tyler Salvatore added nine points for Mt. Pleasant, which is averaging less than 50 points a game. The Vikings were hoping to keep momentum going toward a good seed in next week’s WPIAL playoffs. If nothing else, they got a playoff-like test.

“The thing about EF is that they make few mistakes and are so efficient on offense,” Kravits said. “In close games, turnovers have reared their ugly heads for us. We have to get more confidence on offense. I like our senior group. They are excited to be in the playoffs.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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