No. 1 Fox Chapel stays unbeaten with convincing win over Norwin

Tuesday, January 7, 2020 | 10:51 PM

Fox Chapel, the top-ranked team in Class 6A, jumped ahead in the first minute and didn’t look back, leading the entire way to a 63-48 victory over Norwin on Tuesday night.

Shots fell, defensive adjustments worked wonders and multiple players stepped up in the scoring department in the absence of two regular starters as Fox Chapel moved to 11-0 and 3-0 in Section 3-6A.

It was a dramatic departure from Fox Chapel’s previous game. Last Friday at Hempfield, shots didn’t fall, foul trouble was an issue, and the Foxes needed a big fourth quarter to move to 10-0 for the first time this century.

“We knew Norwin would come in ready, and with us being down a few guys and Sam (Brown) not being able to go, we were at a bit of a disadvantage,” said Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar. “We went in at halftime and adjusted and fixed some things. We hit some shots early, which was a big help, and then we finished it on defense.”

Brown, a senior guard who had missed the first 10 games of the season due to an injury suffered during football season, gave it a go, but wasn’t able to finish the game.

Fox Chapel was also without junior Arnold Vento for the third-straight game and had starter and senior Will Livingston out sick for the game.

Eli Yofan, a sophomore, picked up the scoring slack again, pouring in 19 in the victory, including 11 in the first half.

Things didn’t go as well as Fox Chapel would’ve liked defensively in the first half, but shots fell to the tune of a 39-32 halftime lead.

Jayden Walker, a second-team all-section pick as a sophomore last seasion, was back in the lineup for Norwin after missing the first 10 games recovering from baseball-season shoulder surgery. Walker’s return, coupled with Livingston being out, who normally guards the best opposing player, complicated things, according to Skrinjar.

“We had a feeling Jayden was going to play, and without the guys we were missing and Lorenzo Jenkins in foul trouble a bit, we were mixing and matching a bit,” said Skrinjar. “We lost some shooters a couple times, but made adjustments and finished strong defensively.”

Yofan’s 19 points were important. He was one of three Foxes in double figures. Fellow sophomores JP Dockey and Russell Fenton both scored 11 points.

“Eli picked us up when we needed him to and we had talked to him before the game about being a little more aggressive,” said Skrinjar. “He found some guys for threes early too. Russell was great. When Arnold got hurt, Russell started the next night and got a lot of minutes at Hempfield. We know he can score, and we feel comfortable giving him the opportunity and he stepped up.”

Norwin head coach Buddy Valinsky had praise for Yofan and all of the Foxes after the game.

“We were down 44-40, I think, at one point and just couldn’t get it back to tied,” said Valinsky. “All of those kids can handle the ball and shoot, and the kids who can shoot deep can go to the basket too. The Yofan kid is one of the more talented sophomores around. He’s athletic, he’s intelligent and being a lefty helps him. That’s a good team.”

The Knights got 14 points from Ty Bilinsky as they continue to look to make strides. They’ve already matched their 2018-19 win total with eight, despite falling to 8-3 overall and 0-3 in Section 3-6A play.

“Getting Walker back tonight was great. He gives us a post player,” said Valinsky. “This is a tough section, so we’re looking to get better every day. Fox Chapel shot it really well, and when that happens, it’s tough to win. My kids played hard and ran some different stuff.”

Norwin hosts Latrobe on Friday night while Fox Chapel entertains Penn-Trafford.

In a postgame interview on the Trib Live High School Sports Network, Yofan, Dockey, Fenton, Lorenzo Jenkins and Jacob DeMotte all echoed the need to clamp down even harder on the defensive end and said they were looking forward to another challenge Friday at home.

The Foxes, with a win, would continue to grow their best start to a season this century. During the 2016-17 campaign, Fox Chapel won the first nine games it played, lost and then rattled off another nine-game win streak to start 18-1.

A win Friday would push the Foxes to 12-0.

“It’s been fun, but these guys expect it,” said Skrinjar. “We knew we’d be good and we’re not perfect despite being undefeated. We’re excited to get more guys back but also excited that we are getting guys positive minutes. We’re going to keep looking to get better and get ready for a big game Friday night.”

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