Alle-Kiski Valley boys basketball notebook: Fox Chapel’s defense leading the way in hot start

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Thursday, December 19, 2019 | 5:10 PM


In a time in high school basketball where most coaches are having their teams run and put up as many points as possible, Fox Chapel has gone the opposite direction and is letting its defense do the talking.

Through six games, the Foxes are undefeated and the most impressive part of their hot start is that none of their opponents scored over 50 points. The Foxes are giving up 44.7 points per game this season, which is the fourth-lowest mark in the WPIAL and the lowest mark in all of Class 6A.

Their defense has become somewhat of a calling card for the Foxes this season, and they’ve taken pride in shutting their opponents down.

“I think we are confident because our defense travels,” senior Shane Susnak said. “We talk about it all the time. We might not have our offense all the time, but we know we can bring our defense every night. Whether were on the road or at home, it doesn’t matter.”

While they might let their defense do the talking, the Foxes are still producing offensively and it’s coming from a few different players. Senior Arnold Vento has led the way for the most part and scored a career-high 26 points against North Hills on Tuesday.

Then there is sophomore guard Eli Yofan, who has also taken on a do-it-all role. On Tuesday, he scored 20 points while grabbing eight rebounds and recording a career-high seven steals.

Just last year, the Foxes made their way into the PIAA tournament, and after losing only one senior this offseason, they return with the type of mentality that can take their game to the next level. But it starts with having high expectations on the defensive end.

“We don’t really have to challenge them a lot on defense because they do a good job of challenging each other and they know what we expect,” Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said. “They have held to that expectation and really even have gone by it in some ways. But we’re still looking to get better every day and continue to work.”

After the win over North Hills, the Foxes will be off until Monday when they host Latrobe for their first Section 3-6A game of the season.

A career night

The Springdale Dynamos earned a big 86-85 section victory over Sto-Rox on Tuesday and Demitri Fritch turned in one of the best performances of his high school career.

The 6-foot-3 junior guard turned in his second triple-double of the season with a career-high 42-points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. He said it was something that he could feel from the very beginning of the game as he came in with an attacking mindset.

“I came out with the mentality where I just wanted to score,” Fritch said. “But winning the game was definitely the big accomplishment.”

Throughout this season, Fritch has been a key component of Springdale’s success. He’s scored at least 18 points in every game and has scored 20 points or more in four of the six. He’s impacted the game in other ways as well.

“There’s no doubt to me that he’s one of the top 10 players in the WPIAL,” Springdale coach Aaron Epps said. “But the thing to me is he does it on both ends. There are a lot of people who can score, but they don’t play defense. His mark on a game is everywhere. Rebounds, points, assists, steals. He’s just a special type of talent and they don’t come around too often.”

Playing alongside Springdale standout Mike Zolnierczyk last season, Fritch was an All-VND third-team selection. But with the departure of the team’s leading scorer, the wiry sophomore knew he needed to take a step forward this season, so he put the work in this offseason and it has paid off so far.

“My jump shot has improved tremendously from last year and so has my left hand,” Fritch said. “So those two things have made me a better basketball player, for sure.”

On Friday, the Dynamos will have another tough test when they take on Class 2A No. 5 Winchester Thurston.

Sharp shooter

Last season, Apollo-Ridge guard Keighton Reese lit up opponents from behind the 3-point line. He tied a school record for most 3-pointers in a season (80) and in a game (10).

So far this season, the sharpshooter has kept up his range from deep. He’s finished four of Apollo-Ridge’s six games with five or more 3-pointers.He made five against Deer Lakes and six against Sto-Rox.

So far this week, Reese has made a total of 15. He made seven against Riverview on Tuesday and eight more the next night in a win over St. Joseph.

After Wednesday’s performance, he’s made 30 this season and is on track to top his total from a year ago.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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