Yofan’s free throw lifts Fox Chapel over Norwin

Friday, January 15, 2021 | 10:13 PM

Fox Chapel senior Eli Yofan didn’t have one of his typical games Friday.

His shot was off, and Norwin’s defense did a good job taking away the driving lanes.

But with the game on the line, Yofan came up big.

His free throw with 5.2 seconds left lifted Fox Chapel to a hard-fought 39-38 victory at Norwin in a WPIAL Class 6A Section 3 battle.

“I knew I had to make it,” said Yofan, who had a team-high nine points and seven rebounds. “I had to make the first one because it was a 1-on-1. I felt when I made it there was a good chance we’d win the game.”

He missed the second shot and then had to hold his breath as he watched Norwin sophomore Adam Bilinsky’s 3-pointer at the buzzer fall short.

The win was big because the Foxes (3-2, 2-1) are back on top of the section after Hempfield stunned Penn-Trafford, 54-51. Fox Chapel lost to Penn-Trafford in overtime Tuesday.

“I told them we needed a win, and I didn’t care if it was by one point, two points or 20 points,” Fox Chapel coach Zack Skrinjar said. “Historically, we’ve always struggled shooting in this gym for some reason. So the game has always been tight and close. We expected that, and I thought we did a good getting our guys to continue to keep shooting.”

Fox Chapel began the game 0 from 7 beyond the 3-point line and found itself down 10-6 early in the second quarter.

But a steal by J.P Dockey and a 3-pointer by Kent Baldauf turned things around. The Foxes made five 3-pointers during a 21-4 run to grab a 27-14 lead.

Yofan didn’t score his first points until he made a 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 30 seconds left in the half.

“They found a way to stop us from scoring, so we had to adapt,” Yofan said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well, but we ended up winning. A one-point win is insane.

“They were in a match-up, box-in-one type of zone. Where ever I was, they had a guy sitting on me, which was fine because it opened up a lot of parts of the floor. We had guys ready to shoot.”

Norwin didn’t help its cause in the first half. with nine turnovers, including six after taking a 10-6 lead, and they were giving Fox Chapel too many second chances.

In the third quarter, the Knights (1-2, 0-2) did a better job rebounding, and sparked by Kaleb Pryor and Bilinsky, started chipping at Fox Chapel’s lead. Norwin outscored the Foxes, 16-7, in the third quarter to close to within 34-32.

Norwin was coached by assistant John Stone as head coach Buddy Valinsky missed the game.

Pryor scored seven of his game-high 15 points in the second half, and Bilinsky scored six of his 10.

“They had 12 offensive rebounds in the first half,” Stone said. “We battled back in the second half. … I told Adam, ‘It’s on you. Your brother (Ty) is not in here, yet. It was time to step up and grow up and play.”

Ty Bilinsky is sidelined with an injury.

Norwin tied the score at 36 on buckets by Bilinsky and Pryor. After Dockey put the Foxes up 38-36 with 4:01 left, Nick Fleming tied it with 2:50 left with a driving layup.

The Knights got the ball back with 1:50 left, but Pryor missed a floater and Fox Chapel got the rebound with 1:15 left and held for the final shot.

With 5.2 left Yofan was fouled in the lane.

“We have the ability to score quickly,” Skrinjar said. “We talked about getting back in our defensive principals because we weren’t doing that. Letting our defense work into our offense was a big thing for us.”

Fox Chapel will face Pittsburgh Central Catholic on Tuesday, and Norwin tries to build on its second-half success Saturday against Berlin Brothersvalley from District 5.

“We come back Saturday. It’s the next step,” Stone said. “We have to keep it moving. This was only Game 3. We have to grow from it, learn from it and see if we can execute.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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