Pine-Richland knocks off Fox Chapel, returns to WPIAL Class 6A title game

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Tuesday, March 9, 2021 | 9:07 PM


Pine-Richland boys basketball coach Bob Petcash came into this season with a plan, and it revolved around his team hitting their peak at just the right time.

After a 12-point win over Peters Township, a four-point win over No. 3 Hempfield and Tuesday’s 76-63 victory over No. 2 Fox Chapel (20-3) to punch their ticket to the WPIAL Class 6A championship for the fourth time in six years, Petcash and the No. 6 Rams (14-5) can see that plan coming to fruition.

“We’ve been preparing since the beginning of the year, to peak at this time of the year,” Petcash said. “With the whole covid situation and the way practices were changed and shut down, my whole basis was to peak towards the end of February, beginning of March, and it’s following through to that.”

They’ll face No. 1 Upper St. Clair at 8 p.m. on Friday at Peters Township’s AHN Arena.

Through the first 12 minutes Tuesday, Fox Chapel and Pine-Richland went back and forth in a tightly contested matchup.

The Foxes took an early 9-5 lead before the Rams raced back to tie the score. From there, the teams traded the lead seven times until junior guard Andy Swartout hit the first of his five 3-pointers to give the Rams a 25-23 lead. Pine-Richland never trailed again.

Swartout made four 3-pointers in the second quarter, including scoring Pine-Richland’s final eight points of the half to give his team a 40-31 lead.

“Andy has been a guy that in some games he’s played a lot, some games he didn’t play, but once he realized that once he plays in my system and doesn’t try to do what he wants to do, he can be really good,” Petcash said. “That’s what guys start to realize. He puts a lot of time and effort in, and he’s a really good basketball and baseball player and that’s what I expect from my guys. I expect them to come in and play and produce and do it because Fox Chapel is trying to take away our main guys, so other guys gotta step up. That’s a formula for success.”

The Rams extended their lead to 12 points in the third quarter on a Joey Petcash layup before the Foxes’ leading scorer responded.

Eli Yofan, who finished with a game-high 33 points, went on a 10-0 run that cut Pine Richland’s lead to 48-46, but Swartout’s fifth 3-pointer with a few seconds left on the clock made it 51-46 at the end of the third.

After an uncharacteristic start to the game, Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar thought the Foxes were starting to play to the right level of intensity.

“We just had a better defensive intensity and effort,” Skrinjar said. “We just couldn’t quite get over that hump at the end of the game.”

Outside of Yofan, the Foxes were limited on Tuesday. He was the only player to score in double-digits and JP Dockey was the next highest scorer with nine points. Petcash said he knew if another player outside of Yofan got going, it wouldn’t be good for the Rams.

“We knew he (Yofan) was good. He averages 22 a game. He’s gonna get his 20-22. He’s a very good player, and we knew that we needed to match up with them our five against their five,” Petcash said. “We needed to basically take the other four guys away. We couldn’t let one of their other guys go off like they have before because I think that would hurt us. So we kept our plan simple and focused on us. That’s what we’ve done all year.”

With about 3 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Joey Dudkowski, who led Pine-Richland with 22 points, hit a layup to extend their lead to 11.

Andrew Alexander also scored 13 points for the Rams.

The Foxes finished the season with 20 or more wins for the second straight year, but this wasn’t a typical outing.

“We just had uncharacteristic turnovers, and every time we turned the ball over, they were able to score off of it and I thought that was a big factor in the game,” Skrinjar said.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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