Fox Chapel boys start to come together defensively during winning streak

Saturday, January 30, 2021 | 9:01 AM

After suffering back-to-back losses at the beginning of January, the Fox Chapel boys basketball team found its footing and earned four straight victories, including two key wins over Central Catholic and No. 1 Upper St. Clair.

When the Foxes put together their storybook season last year, going 21-2 and earning the No. 2 seed in the WPIAL Class 6A tournament, both Upper St. Clair and Central Catholic handed the Foxes losses late in the season. Upper St. Clair ended Fox Chapel’s perfect season and then two games later, in the second round of the playoffs, Central Catholic pulled off the upset.

That was last year, though, so their wins over both teams weren’t emotional for the Foxes, and they didn’t have any extra motivation behind them. Coach Zach Skrinjar said they were just quality wins.

“It was big for us just because they are both good teams,” Skrinjar said. “Last year is last year and we are kind of on our own with this year. We didn’t really even talk about it. At the end, we kind of just were like, ‘Oh wow, OK, those were the teams.’ Going in, there wasn’t any talk about paying them back because it’s not the same team. We wanted to win because we need to put good wins on our resume.”

Against Central Catholic, the Foxes came away with a 54-44 victory as junior guard Eli Yofan put together a 22-point effort and the Foxes held the Vikings to single digits in both the third and fourth quarter to seal the win.

Then, three days later, Yofan hit a pair of game-winning free throws to push the Foxes ahead of Upper St. Clair as they beat the top-ranked team in Class 6A, 72-70, in a high-scoring battle that saw the teams combine for 40 points in the fourth quarter.

Four players finished in double digits for the Foxes, and senior Kent Baldauf led the way with 18 points on six 3-pointers.

“I think both of those wins were confidence boosters for us because both of those teams press a lot,” Skrinjar said. “We just wanted to go out and prove to ourselves that we could play with those guys and if we play our best, we are just as good as them. I think there was a quiet confidence going into both of those games. We knew that if we played well, we’d have a chance to win, and we did exactly what we needed to do.”

Fox Chapel’s recent streak has been beneficial in a lot of ways for the No. 3 team in Class 6A. Heading into it, the Foxes weren’t playing their typical style of defense. After returning from the three-week layoff, they allowed their next three opponents to scored 60-plus points.

After their second straight loss, a 63-31 defeat against Penn Trafford, Skrinjar said the Foxes needed to play better on the defensive end of the court. Over the past few weeks, he’s seen it at times.

They held Norwin to just 38 points and Central Catholic to 44. Despite the 70-point explosion from Upper St. Clair, Skrinjar thought they also played well defensively in that win too.

“I think, at times, it has improved greatly and we are kind of getting closer to where we need to be with it,” Skrinjar said. “Against Central, I thought it was there and really the score might not have indicated it, but against St. Clair, our defense was pretty good. The total score, the points allowed might have not have shown it, but I thought we were back to playing a little bit more like ourselves in that one.”

There is also room for improvement, and it showed against McKeesport on Jan. 27, when the Tigers scored 63 points and the Foxes struggled to pick up stops at times throughout the game.

“I think we are just allowing too much dribble penetration, which puts our guys at a disadvantage,” Skrinjar said. “Also, our rebounding was very lackluster.”

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


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