Fox Chapel, Knoch girls basketball see state playoff dreams fall short

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Monday, March 2, 2020 | 4:52 PM


The Knoch and Fox Chapel girls basketball teams gained rooting interests in their respective WPIAL playoff tournaments after both lost in the quarterfinal round Feb. 20 and 21, respectively.

The Knights and Foxes, along with several other boys and girls squads in the six classifications, waited in limbo for a week to see if they would extend their runs with PIAA berths.

But, under the WPIALs follow-the-winner format for determining additional PIAA qualifiers, the results of Friday’s Class 4A title game — a win by North Catholic over Southmoreland — and Saturday’s 6A championship contest — an overtime victory by North Allegheny over Bethel Park — dashed their state-tournament hopes and ended their seasons.

“I tried to not get too hyped up about it, but during the fourth quarter, the emotions came into play,” Fox Chapel coach Marty Matvey said. “I was thinking how great it would be to give the seniors a chance to play at least one more game with their teammates.

“We were so close to scratching that next surface, playing a lot of close games. Obviously, fate was not on our side.”

Fox Chapel, which suffered a 33-29 loss to No. 1 Bethel Park in the quarterfinals, needed the Black Hawks to win the title eight days later to secure the fifth PIAA spot from Class 6A. But that spot went to Baldwin, which lost to North Allegheny in the quarterfinals.

“I think that throughout the season, with injuries and other ups and downs, we gained a little more grit than we had when we started,” said Matvey, who will say goodbye to a senior group that included starting guards Claire Fenton and Gabby Guerrieri.

“Playing with the same intensity, whether you’re up 20 or down 20, is something we were always trying to implore with these ladies. They definitely showed that, and it served them well in some tough games.”

Fox Chapel, the fourth-place team from Section 1 behind North Allegheny, Norwin and Seneca valley, capped its season at 13-10.

Knoch entered the WPIAL tournament as the No. 6 seed in the Class 4A bracket. The Knights hoped to make a run in the tournament and also land one of the classification’s seven state bids.

The waiting game began when they lost in the quarterfinals to Central Valley, 52-47, in overtime.

The four semifinalists in each of the six boys and six girls tournaments earned automatic berths to states.

Southmoreland, the No. 2 seed, edged Freeport in the quarterfinals and remained undefeated when it beat Central Valley in the semifinals Feb. 24. As a result, the Yellowjackets clinched at least the No. 6 spot to states, and it left Knoch waiting for the title game.

But North Catholic’s 17-point win over Southmoreland at Petersen Events Center ended Knoch’s hopes and put section rival Indiana, which the Knights beat twice in section play, in the state tournament.

“Last Monday, when Central Valley lost to Southmoreland (in the semifinals), that was the heartbreaking loss,” Knoch coach Chris Andreassi said. “Despite having two paths to the state playoffs, realistically, our best path was having Central Valley win to pull us in as the fifth or sixth team. Not many expected Southmoreland to beat North Catholic.

“The girls were kind of upset. They wanted to keep playing. They wanted to play it out to determine the seeds instead of this follow-the-winner. But the rules are what the rules are.”

Fox Chapel and Knoch continued to practice and stay loose last week, and Matvey and Andreassi said, despite the teams’ fates, they were positive opportunities for their teams to be together a few more times.

“The girls still held out hope,” said Andreassi, who helped guide his team to a runner-up finish in Section 1-4A and a 17-7 overall record. “They went out to dinner and went to the (championship) game.

“We had a one-word motto we used the entire season, and we even put it on a T-shirt. That word was ‘together.’ It was nice to see them stick together throughout the entire season, and they finished it that way right up to the end.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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