A-K Valley high school basketball notebook: Injuries to key players plaguing teams early

Friday, December 22, 2017 | 12:42 AM

Injuries can create holes in even the most complete basketball rotations, and a few teams around the Alle-Kiski Valley are feeling the pain.

Fox Chapel, St. Joseph and Valley are dealing with injuries to some of their expected core players.

Class 6A No. 3 Fox Chapel already was replacing three starters from last season's section championship team, but projected starter Sam Brown went down with a torn labrum in preseason, and Ryan Kerr injured his ankle in the second game. St. Joseph lost junior Matt Arvay, one of three returning starters, to injury before the season began. And Valley has been without returning starters Deonte Ross and Alex Ward all season.

“It is what it is, right?” Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said. “You've got to play through it. Everyone has some sort of similar story in some way.”

On the positive side, Fox Chapel began the season with four consecutive wins before losing to Woodland Hills on Tuesday — a game second-leading scorer Ben Kelly sat out with an illness. St. Joseph (3-2) is holding its own, with freshman Andrew Sullivan providing a lift. And Valley (2-2) is getting healthier. Senior Darius Johnson, who missed the season opener with a hand injury, returned and played a key role in victories over Freeport and Burrell. Vikings coach Mark Faulx said he hopes to have Ross and Ward back for the second half of the season.

Cavaliers' ‘signature win'

A section victory over Albert Gallatin late in the 2014-15 season snapped a 24-game section losing streak for the Kiski Area girls basketball team. Little did that group know another section triumph wouldn't come for two full seasons.

But all streaks are made to be broken, and the latest skid-ender — Monday's 32-29 Section 4-5A win over Plum, which put to bed a 26-game skid in section play — had coach Nick Ionadi flowing with confidence in his players.

“Now they know they can win tight games,” Ionadi said. “We wanted these girls to think bigger than, ‘As long as we try, we'll be OK.' We wanted to do what these other schools are doing.”

Sophomore Violeta Kenzevich hit the winning shot, a 16-foot jumper, with 16 seconds left, and senior Katelyn Brown sealed the win with a pair of free throws with three ticks on the clock.

“We kept getting close last season,” Ionadi said. “We lost to Indiana at the buzzer, and we were hanging on in other games. Now, we got one of these tight ones. We can build off this and win more. It's a signature win for this young team.”

Worth their salt

The St. Joseph boys had a signature win of their own Monday, rallying from a 10-point deficit after three quarters for a 76-73 win over Saltsburg.

Coach Kelly Robinson said the Spartans (3-2) trailed by 16 or 17 points early in the fourth before scoring 33 points in the final quarter.

The Spartans' top three scorers on the season came through: Freshman Andrew Sullivan scored 32 points, Daniel Fábregas added 22 and Grant Bendis had 12.

Robinson said the comeback reminded him of one last season against Serra Catholic, when the Spartans rallied from a 20-point halftime deficit at their holiday tournament for an overtime win.

“It was a special moment,” Robinson said. “ … The kids, as long as they feel they can hang in there in the fourth quarter, anything can happen.”

Early-season showcase

Highlands games typically draw a strong crowd, but the Golden Rams' season opener against Butler at the Pine-Richland tournament drew a significant figure in local basketball: Pitt coach Kevin Stallings, who was on hand to watch Butler star sophomore Ethan Morton.

Morton recorded a triple-double in Butler's victory, but Highlands coach Tyler Stoczynski said he believed his team benefited from the audience.

“It's a great thing,” Stoczynski said. “The reason we schedule top teams is so we give our guys an opportunity to get their names out there also. If that's a way that we can do that, then great. We'll take any opportunity we can to get our kids in front of college coaches.”

Michael Love contributed. Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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