Fox Chapel boys are looking to rediscover their defensive identity

Saturday, January 16, 2021 | 9:01 AM

In recent years, the Fox Chapel boys basketball team has shaped its identity around success on the defensive end.

Four years ago, when the Foxes finished 19-4, they allowed an average of 53.4 points, and they haven’t allowed an average higher than that since. They look to keep opponents under 50 points, and, for the majority of the past two seasons, the Foxes have done just that.

The Foxes finished last season with one of the top-scoring defenses in the WPIAL, allowing an average of 43.1 points. In 23 games, only three teams scored more than 50 points as Fox Chapel earned the No. 2 seed in the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs.

But, the 2020-21 season has been a strange one, and Fox Chapel’s defense has gone missing through their first four games.

“We’re still deficient in numerous areas, defensively especially,” Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said. “We’re not clicking. It’s not the bind we’ve had in previous years from some of the players, so we’re still trying to find our way on the defensive end. I think that’s leading to a lot of our deficiencies in the last two losses, but it was problematic prior to that.”

Since the Foxes returned from the three-week pause on high school athletics put into place by Gov. Tom Wolf in mid-December, they are 1-2 and have allowed all three opponents to score 60-plus points.

In their first-game back Jan. 8, junior guard Eli Yofan scored 34 points as the Foxes beat Hempfield, 87-65. Then, in the past two games Chartiers Valley and Penn-Trafford have scored 66 and 63 points, respectively. Both games resulted in losses, and Skrinjar said it went back to their effort on the defensive end.

“Defensive is a lot of heart and effort and were not showing enough of it,” Skrinjar said. “I’m not going to make excuses or blame the layoff. It’s stuff that they’ve done, and they know the expectations. We’re just not doing it to the level that the coaches and expect and we’re capable of.”

Skrinjar knows his guys are capable of having success on the defensive end because some were a part of the team last season. So, Skrinjar knows the defensive “fire” is inside of his players. He and his staff are searching for a way to pull that effort out.

“You don’t like to compare teams per se, but a lot of these guys were witnesses for two years to the defensive expectations we’ve had,” Skrinjar said. “But for some reason, it’s not happening. So, we have to do a better job as coaches of trying to find ways to get it out of them, and they need to revert back to the old habits that were successful for them when they were playing last year.”

While the Foxes haven’t been performing to standards defensively, they’ve been putting up numbers offensively. They are averaging 67 points and have been getting production from all over the board, including Yofan and a few others, but Skrinjar doesn’t believe the Foxes will have success unless they are able to find footing on the defensive end.

“Our guys shouldn’t just forget how to defend because it’s just principles that we’ve instilled in them,” Skrinjar said. “Unless that changes, we’re going to be treading water the entire season, which is obviously not where we want to be.”

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


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