1st-round jitters can’t stop Fox Chapel in wild win over North Hills

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Saturday, February 24, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Zach Skrinjar has a theory about the first round of the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs. Despite there being some mismatches on paper in terms of high seeds against lower seeds, the veteran Fox Chapel boys basketball coach believes the first round is the most difficult.

“Everyone has nerves. You know in all scenarios that it is a win-or-go-home game,” Skrinjar said. “I do think the first one is the toughest. Those are the most anxious you are. It’s a totally different season. Warmups are different, and everything is different. Nothing surprises me in the first round because of that fact.”

With that in mind, it isn’t surprising that Fox Chapel advanced by scoring a season-high 94 points in a double-overtime win over North Hills on Feb. 20. It moved the Foxes to within one win of reaching the PIAA tournament for the third straight season.

Fox Chapel could advance with a win over top-seeded Moon in a quarterfinal that was played after deadline for this edition or with a victory in the consolation bracket.

The win over North Hills was a wild affair for Fox Chapel.

The Foxes’ previous high for points this season was 70 in a win over Plum on Jan. 30 at home. Fox Chapel only averages 52.5 per contest. Jefferson Moorefield-Brown led the Foxes with 26 points against the Indians.

“In my mind, I had a feeling it would be high-scoring,” Skrinjar said. “I didn’t know it would be that high scoring. (North Hills) likes to go a little bit. It was a game where a lot of guys were making big shots.”

Skrinjar said the game was the second-highest scoring game of his tenure, which began in 2009. He said Fox Chapel had previously scored 100 points against North Hills.

The Foxes set up their schedule this season to get a wide variety of opponents. Fox Chapel ended up having a road game at Moon that didn’t get close to 90 points between the two teams, let alone 178.

The Tigers beat Fox Chapel, 45-29, earlier this season.

“You want to put yourself in a position to be able to challenge yourself in different situations. That’s what basketball is,” Skrinjar said. “You have to adapt to what other teams are doing. You want to find out what they don’t do well and exploit it.”

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