Freshman sparks bounce-back season for Fox Chapel girls

Saturday, January 14, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Lyla Jablon didn’t have to worry about slowly discovering the chaos of playing girls varsity basketball.

The Fox Chapel freshman guard was thrust into an uncomfortable situation early in the season. The Foxes lost leading scorer Skye Byrnes to a broken ankle and had two other starters out with injuries against Woodland Hills.

Despite trailing by 12 in the first half, Fox Chapel pulled together and toppled the Wolverines, 57-50, on the road. Throughout the season, the Foxes have been finding ways to win by any means necessary.

After beating Elizabeth Forward last Wednesday, the Foxes improved to 8-5 overall and 2-2 in Section 2-5A. Fox Chapel has now won more games than it did last season.

What the Foxes have proved is they have the ability to adapt.

“Against Woodland Hills, we all came together,’ said Jablon, who averages nine points, four assists and three rebounds per game. “We had a number of players on the team that had to step into different roles and played different spots in that game. We didn’t pout. We just kept looking forward.”

Fox Chapel is currently in the midst of a competitive playoff chase in the section. The Foxes are in a three-way tie for fourth place along with Shaler and Hampton.

Fox Chapel is led by senior Elsie Smith, who averages 13 points and 11 rebounds per game. Byrnes is out still out with an ankle injury, while Isabella Barbour, who averages nine points per game, has missed time with a broken nose.

“I’ll say that our girls have been a resilient bunch,” Foxes coach Marty Matvey said. “We haven’t had a healthy full team in two years.”

But one thing not having perfect injury luck does is present opportunities for other players to step up. Sarah Slember, Natalia Schaffer and Bella Urso have also been key contributors for Fox Chapel.

What having so many scoring options on the team does is take some of the pressure off of Smith. While Matvey said they will still count on her to take on making plays in key moments and taking big shots, the Foxes don’t need her to score or rebound as much as they did last season.

“We wanted to be more unpredictable on offense,” Matvey said. “She can still get to her spots and make reads because of her skills and size. We don’t have to force the ball into her.”

Jablon has played comfortably at the varsity level. She hasn’t had too many uncomfortable moments on many basketball courts.

Growing up, Jablon played in a lot of pickup games against adult men.

That’s why when things go haywire, Jablon isn’t quick to panic.

“We used to go over to Gateway High School and play against other players who played in college and some teachers who played,” Jablon said. “It helped me build character and helped me deal with adversity.”


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