Fox Chapel feels it after 1st quarter, beats Seneca Valley
By: Chris Harlan
Monday, February 18, 2019 | 1:30 AM
Fox Chapel missed 10 of its first 11 shots Tuesday night, a dismal start that could have doomed the team’s playoff hopes, but then suddenly, they almost couldn’t miss.
Even a 3-pointer to take the lead banked in.
Eli Yofan made a 3, Ryan Kerr followed with a 3 and Arnold Vento added another as the sixth-seeded Foxes quickly found their shooting touch in Tuesday night’s 58-46 victory over 11th-seeded Seneca Valley in a WPIAL Class 6A first-round game at North Allegheny.
After its 1-for-11 start, Fox Chapel went 15 of 25 from the field in the final three quarters including 9 for 15 from behind the arc.
“I tell these guys the basket doesn’t have a memory,” Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said. “You’ve got to just keep shooting. I think there were some nerves early and some jitters. Once you see a couple go in, the basket seems a lot bigger.”
That nervousness was completely gone once Yofan sheepishly banked in a go-ahead 3-pointer with a minute left in the first half. The bank shot from the top of the key — Yofan’s second 3-pointer in the quarter — gave the Foxes a 20-17 halftime lead that they never lost.
“It was relieving,” Yofan said, “because I didn’t think it was going in. I just ran up (to rebound) and I saw it fall. Wow!”
“Everyone just took a deep breath and said: ‘OK, that’ll work,’ ” Skrinjar said with a laugh.
The victory advances Fox Chapel (16-7) to face third-seeded Mt. Lebanon in a quarterfinal Saturday. A site and time was not yet announced.
This is the third straight year Fox Chapel has reached the quarterfinals but this also was the team’s first playoff win since 2015. The Foxes earned first-round byes each of the past two seasons and lost their playoff opener.
“I can’t lie,” Skrinjar said, “that felt good to get one under your belt.”
Arnold led Fox Chapel with 20 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter. The junior went 3 for 3 on 3-pointers and 6 for 8 from the free-throw line in those final 8 minutes.
Yofan, a freshman, added 16 points including a pair of three-point plays on driving layups in the third quarter. His first pushed Fox Chapel’s lead to four points. His second gave the Foxes a 35-23 lead with 44 seconds left in the third quarter.
Sam Brown added 10 points for Fox Chapel.
As a team, the Foxes shot 5 for 10 from the field in the second quarter, 6 for 10 in the third and 4 for 5 in the fourth.
“For a lot of us, it was a different look being in the playoffs,” Vento said. “It was a little bit of nerves, a little bit of just a different feel. Once we sort of got over that, we started finding each other and they all started falling.”
On the other side, Seneca Valley never could spark its offense. Marcus Might led the Raiders (11-11) with 14 points, and Zac Zajacs added 11, but the team shot just 31 percent.
They went 14 for 44 from the field, including 3 for 19 from 3-point range.
Fox Chapel’s defense was focused on Might, a 6-foot-7 senior center who caused issues early. Might had six points in the first quarter but only eight afterward as the Foxes clogged the middle.
Seneca Valley was outscored 16-7 in the second quarter and 17-11 in the third.
“We just couldn’t score for really, really long stretches, and that’s kind of what did us in,” Seneca Valley coach Kevin Trost said. “They did a good job of really helping on Marcus, and we didn’t really make too many perimeter shots to really pull them out, so they just sagged and sagged and sagged.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .