Fox Chapel boys lean on defense for road win over Norwin

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020 | 10:36 PM


Defense. Never leave home without it.

That is Fox Chapel’s mantra. It is what they know and what they do best.

Defense has helped the Foxes put a stranglehold on Section 3-6A and rise to take their place as the top-ranked team in the WPIAL and state.

The team’s calling card was on display Tuesday night in North Huntingdon as the in-your-face Foxes gave Norwin fits and starts on the way to a 47-38 victory that clinched the section title.

They are 18-0, 8-0 in the section, where their lead swelled to four games over Penn-Trafford (11-7, 4-4) and Hempfield (9-9, 4-4).

Norwin is 11-6, 3-5 in section, and is tied for fourth with Connellsviille. The top four teams make the playoffs. The way the Fox Chapel-and-everyone-else section is going, more than four teams might make it.

The win left much to be desired offensively for the Foxes, who are 12-0 on the road, and credit Norwin for cutting a 15-point deficit to six. But Fox Chapel showed why it allows just 42.1 points, the lowest defensive average in the WPIAL.

Chest-to-chest, man-to-man defense made Norwin work for open shots and ultimately allowed the Foxes to avoid an upset. Fox Chapel is a tough matchup for teams because it is long and athletic.

“We knew this would be a tough game coming here,” Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said. “Offense wasn’t there for us to start, but like we always say, bring defense with us.”

Fox Chapel played without seniors Sam Brown, Arnold Vento and Will Livingston the the last time it faced Norwin, a 63-48 win in O’Hara Township.

All three players made a difference, with Vento scoring 12 points and pulling down 10 rebounds to lead the Foxes.

Brown came off the bench.

Fox Chapel led 12-11 after the first quarter and increased it to 21-13 in a nondescript second quarter that saw the Foxes hold the ball for about a minute late in the half.

Sophomore guard Eli Yofan ran to an open spot, caught a pass in front of the Norwin bench and made a 3-pointer to beat the second quarter buzzer and make it 21-13 at the break.

Why hold the ball there?

“Because we can,” Skrinjar said, “Why give them the ball there and another chance? They were sitting back in a zone. We have (held the ball) against teams before. We saw some opportunities to do some things against their zone.”

Norwin managed just one field goal in the second quarter and gave up 10 second-chance points.

Just four players found scored for the Knights.

“They were physical and did a nice job with their help defense,” Norwin coach Buddy Valinsky said of Fox Chapel. “They impede your progress. But I thought we were more physical as the game went on and did a better job rebounding. The problem was, we got physical too late.”

Keny Baldauf, a junior guard, scored five points in the third as Fox Chapel went ahead 34-19 then 36-21, on a pull-up jumper by another sophomore, James Dockey.

Yofan also hit a 3 in the third.

He finished with 10 points, and Baldauf added seven.

Norwin junior guard Ty Bilinsky scored 14 of his game-high 21 points in the second half to help close the gap. He was the only Knight to attempt a free throw and went 6 for 6 from the line.

Norwin had 10 of the first 14 points scored in the fourth, with Bilinsky netting six to cut it to 40-33.

Junior Nick Fleming made a 3 from the wing to make it 43-36 with 2 minutes, 38 seconds left in the fourth.

But Norwin could not sustain runs, especially with Fox Chapel in the bonus.

“We were within six there, and we turned it over on an inbounds play,” Valinsky said. “That hurt us. We didn’t score enough.”

Fox Chapel made 8 of 12 free throws inside the final three minutes to slowly peel away.

“We did a good job of controlling the basketball late,” Skrinjar said. “Ball possession is a key for us.”

Norwin junior forward Jayden Walker, who made his season debut against the Foxes earlier in the year, had eight of his 12 points in the second half.

“We gave them a little scare, which is a positive for us,” Valinsky said. “We’re getting better every game we play.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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