Neighboring Fox Chapel, Shady Side Academy celebrate basketball titles

Saturday, March 26, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Fox Chapel and Shady Side Academy, schools located just about a mile apart, are celebrating WPIAL boys basketball championships from earlier this month.

Fox Chapel defeated North Hills, 43-36, for Class 6A honors, and Shady Side defeated Avonworth, 66-54, to win the Class 3A title.

Both games were held at Petersen Events Center. Both schools won earlier titles, Fox Chapel in 1977 over Beaver Falls and Shady Side in 1999 over Farrell.

It’s also the first time since 1975 that schools located so close to each other won WPIAL titles. That season, Uniontown Area defeated Valley and Uniontown St. John defeated Edgewood.

The Foxes and Bulldogs both saw their dream seasons end with losses in the PIAA playoffs.

Fox Chapel (27-2)

After losing to North Hills by 30 points on the second night of the season, Fox Chapel reeled off 22 consecutive victories to face the Indians for the WPIAL title.

The Foxes led just 25-23 at the end of three quarters until the pace quickened and Fox Chapel finished with a 43-36 win.

“It was tremendous,” Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said. “It was everything we thought it could be and more.”

Like most great teams, the Foxes came up big in the fourth quarter of their first five playoff games.

“I’ve always said about this group when the lights shine and come on, they shine the brightest. It’s just a compliment to what they’ve done their whole careers. They’re winners. We never think we’re out of a basketball game. They maintained their composure and found a way to get it done in the end.”

J.P. Dockey — on his birthday — led the Foxes in scoring with 10 points against North Hills.

Eli Yofan has been one of the WPIAL’s top players the last two seasons. He continued his stellar play throughout the postseason, even though he was hobbled by an ankle sprain sustained in the PIAA opener against Cumberland Valley.

But it was much more than Yofan. It seemed the Foxes had a different hero every night.

Said Skrinjar: “Eli does get a lot of credit, but he’ll be the first to tell you that it’s been a total team effort from top to bottom. In the playoffs, different guys stepped up at different times. It is Eli, but he had a lot of help along the way. If you had an off night, you knew your teammate was going to be there to pick you up.”

Fox Chapel fell a game short of its first shot at a state championship berth since 1977 by losing a semifinal contest to Archbishop Wood, 56-54.

But it was the first time in school history Fox Chapel won three straight section titles and the team compiled an overall mark of 68-7 during that span.

Skrinjar gave considerable credit to his assistant coaches, long-time aide Joe Farrell, lifelong pal Tom Reighard and his brother, Gabe Skrinjar.

Shady Side Academy (20-7)

Over the past couple of seasons, the Bulldogs have developed quite a rivalry with South Allegheny. The two schools split the Section 3-3A series, leading up to Shady Side’s section title.

Ultimately, the third time the two teams met was in the second round of the PIAA playoffs is where the season ended for Shady Side, dropping a 68-59 decision in overtime to the Gladiators.

Talk about a difficult schedule, 21 of Shady Side’s 27 games were against playoff teams. The only non-playoff teams on the schedule were two games against Valley, Apollo-Ridge and East Allegheny — the teams from Section 3 that didn’t make the playoffs. That made the Bulldogs playoff ready.

Shady Side was awarded the No. 3 seed in the WPIAL tournament and opened the playoffs with a convincing, 68-28 victory over No. 14 Laurel. Next was a 57-50 win over Washington. Both of those came took place on the Fox Chapel High School floor.

In the semifinals, the Bulldogs prevailed over second-seeded Aliquippa, 56-51, to earn a spot in the title game.

On the other side of the bracket, South Allegheny was nearly upset by Steel Valley, needing overtime to prevail against the Ironmen, 60-58. Had Steel Valley won, South Allegheny would not have made the state playoffs.

In the finals, No. 8 Avonworth, an upset winner over No. 1 Ellwood City in the quarterfinals, led Shady Side, 13-8, at the end of one quarter. But a highlight reel-type of play late in the half, where Eli Teslovich tossed an alley-oop pass to Peter Kramer, put the momentum toward Shady Side.

Teslovich led the way with 20 points and Kramer had 18. Thompson Lau led the Bulldogs with seven rebounds.

“The stage wasn’t too big for them. We hold them to a high standard. We have a lot of faith in them,” coach David Vadnais told the Tribune-Review after the game.

In the past, teams had nearly a week off between the WPIAL title games and the PIAA openers.

But with the revised format this year, Shady Side had little time to celebrate winning the WPIAL title. The Bulldogs had to get ready for the first state game four days later.

Penns Valley High School from Centre County made the 169-mile trek to North Allegheny, only to lose to the Bulldogs, 76-47.

In the second round, Shady Side made its first seven shots of the second half and held a 45-28 lead early in the fourth quarter. But the Bulldogs went ice cold after that, falling behind before forcing overtime.

South Allegheny had a strong overtime session to end the season for the WPIAL champs.

“I told the seniors to hold their heads high, they had a fabulous season,” Vadnais said after the game. “And I told the underclassmen this is something to build on.”

Vadnais was assisted by Kyle Smith, Andy Pakler and Dylan Groff.

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