Fox Chapel stuns top-seeded North Hills to win 1st WPIAL title in 45 years

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Saturday, March 5, 2022 | 8:36 PM


Eli Yofan celebrated with the WPIAL trophy in his hands Saturday night, but he also acknowledged the fingerprints his teammates left all over this championship win.

The Foxes’ star senior made only one basket in the game, a quiet night offensively for the team’s leading scorer, so No. 2 seed Fox Chapel instead leaned on a determined defense to upset No. 1 North Hills, 43-36, in the WPIAL Class 6A final at Petersen Events Center.

The title was Fox Chapel’s second overall and first since 1977, ending the team’s 45-year wait.

“It’s unbelievable,” Yofan said. “It’s something I’ve been working for since four years ago when I walked in the gym for summer workouts. Now that it happened four years later, it’s like we manifested it. We said, ‘We’re going to do this,’ we put our minds to it and that’s what happened.”

His only basket was a big one.

Tied at 28, Yofan made a 3-pointer with about six minutes left in the fourth quarter to give the Foxes a lead they never lost. North Hills’ Alex Smith held Yofan to eight points on a 1-for-11 shooting night, but Yofan never let himself grow discouraged in a game that he and his teammates worked to keep close.

North Hills had led 20-19 at half, but Fox Chapel walked to the locker room thrilled with the slow-scoring pace. Fox Chapel led 25-23 after three, with only two free throws from Yofan, who averages 20 points.

“I’ve never really cared about my points or anything like that,” said Yofan, who scored six in the fourth quarter. “It’s all about confidence. I know I need to deliver for my team. If it doesn’t come until the fourth quarter, it happens. Four other guys on the court with me did their part.”

JP Dockey led Fox Chapel (24-1) with 10 points, Colin Kwiatkowski and Russell Fenton scored eight points each, and Jake DeMotte had seven.

Devin Burgess scored 13 points for North Hills (24-1), which was seeking its first WPIAL title in team history. They were ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL for most of the winter.

“We’ve told the guys that you’ve got this target on your back and you’re getting everybody’s best,” North Hills coach Buzz Gabos said. “For 24 nights, we responded. Tonight was just not our night.”

North Hills’ offense was held more than 30 points below its season average, and the Indians shot just 33% from the field and 23% from 3-point range. They also missed six of their 12 free throws.

Royce Parham and Will Blass added eight points each.

“It was a struggle offensively,” Gabos said. “Defensively, I thought we were good, but (we went) 13 for 39 from the field. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, I don’t think we’re going to beat anyone shooting it that way.”

Fox Chapel shot 39% (16 for 41).

North Hills had averaged more than 70 points per game, but Fox Chapel was determined to cut that number down. The Foxes had lost 87-57 when the teams met Dec. 11, a lopsided score that made North Hills appear as a heavy favorite.

“Teams have bad games,” Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said of that 30-point loss in the North Hills tip-off tournament. “We had some injuries. We had some illness. We knew that wasn’t the kind of basketball that we play. If anything, it was kind of a wake-up call for us.”

The defensive focus Saturday was to keep North Hills away from the basket and limit the Indians’ transition offense.

As a result, Fox Chapel outscored North Hills in the paint 28-18 and held 6-foot-7 sophomore Parham to three baskets. The Indians’ longest run was seven points in the first quarter, a big success for Fox Chapel’s defense.

“They like to get out and run,” Skrinjar said. “They have a spurt it seems like every game. It’s a close game, close game and they (score) 12 in a row on you. … That’s what we got caught up in last time.”

Fox Chapel kept it close into the second half and jumped ahead in the fourth quarter, when Yofan scored six points. His 3 from the right corner broke a 28-28 tie, giving the Foxes a lead they never lost. A layup by Dockey pushed Fox Chapel’s lead to 33-28 with about four minutes left.

Four consecutive points by DeMotte extended Fox Chapel’s lead, including a layup around the 1-minute mark to make it 39-32.

“(Yofan) gets the accolades, but he’s the first person to get his teammates involved,” Skrinjar said. “The kid cares about winning. All these guys do, and that’s why they’re champions.”

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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