Defense leads the way as Fox Chapel cruises past Latrobe

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Monday, December 23, 2019 | 7:58 PM


No team has scored more than 50 points on Fox Chapel this season.

When the Foxes hosted the defending Section 3-6A champion Latrobe on Monday, they weren’t about to allow the Wildcats to be the first.

Led by a 17-point contribution from Arnold Vento, 13 points from Eli Yofan and an outstanding defensive effort down the stretch, the Foxes outscored the Wildcats by 11 points in the fourth quarter to cruise to a 63-47 victory to open section play.

“They came out ready to play us well tonight, and it’s hard to simulate a section atmosphere and a section game,” Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said. “But I thought we did a good job of letting our defense do a good job at the end there where we were able to get some crucial stops and some easy layups.”

The teams traded baskets, and the lead, several times throughout the game, but neither team could pull ahead by double digits. As time wore on, it was the Foxes that moved ahead, and they did most of their damage in the fourth quarter.

With 6 minutes, 8 seconds to go in the final frame, sophomore guard Eli Yofan started to leave his imprint on the game. First, he made a diving steal and save that found the hands of Vento for an easy breakaway layup.

On the very next possession, Yofan came up with another steal that led to a breakaway layup, extending his team’s lead to nine in one of the biggest momentum swings of the game. Just before those two possessions, Yofan said he and his team had talked about starting to lock in defensively.

“Coming out of the huddle, our assistant coach and our head coach were like, ‘This is the time,’” Yofan said. “We all knew that we had to get stops and we had to score, but mostly, we just needed to get stops and finish out the game.”

After those back-to-back stops, the Wildcats answered with a mini-run of their own. With just under five minutes remaining, the lead was cut to eight at 52-44. After that, the Foxes buckled down and only gave up three more points, keeping their opponent under 50 for the seventh straight time this season.

“We were really consistently talking about getting stops and rebounding the ball towards the end of the game,” Skrinjar said. “We figured they were probably going to shoot some more threes because they were down a little more and they are a pretty good shooting team. So we just wanted to hold them to one shot.”

After going 18-3 last season and graduating five seniors, Latrobe has started with an overall record of 2-6. But on Monday evening, against a team that is favored to win their section, the Wildcats battled. They held a two-point lead after the first and only trailed by four points at the half.

But a team can only hang in for so long against a team like Fox Chapel, where the defensive pressure is relentless.

“They are gonna exploit you when they have the chance,” Latrobe coach Brad Wetzel said. “For the most part tonight, I thought we did some pretty good things, but you can’t have those sustained minutes where you’re not putting points on the board.”

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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