First-half buzzer beaters propel Fox Chapel past Plum
Baskets at the end of each quarter theoretically mean as much as baskets any other time in the game.
But for Fox Chapel Friday night, baskets at the end of the first and second quarters keyed the visiting Foxes in a 55-48 victory over Section 2-AAAA rival Plum.
With 2.7 seconds left in the first quarter, Brian Papich rebounded a missed 3-point attempt by Plum senior Tanner Yocca.
Papich quickly headed downcourt and launched a successful shot from beyond the foul circle to hand the Foxes a 20-14 lead.
Just before the half, Billy Urso hit a 3-pointer to put Fox Chapel in front, 31-27.
“Any time in the last possession under 10 seconds, and you can manufacture a shot and you can make it, it's always a bonus,” Foxes coach Zach Skrinjar said. “It counts the same whether you get them at the beginning or end, but we'll take them.”
“We were trying to hold for the last shot of the half and, hopefully, go up by one,” Plum coach Ron Richards said. “But an offensive foul gave them possession and they came down and threw in a 3 before the buzzer.”
Fox Chapel, after losing its first section game to Gateway on Tuesday, is 10-2 overall and 5-1 in section play. The five section victories equal Fox Chapel's total from all of last season.
The Foxes (6-7, 2-4) were led by Matt D'Amico's 20 points and Papich's 19.
Plum got a standout performance from junior guard Nick Stotler, who fired in 22 of his team's 48 points, despite playing with a sprained ankle.
“As a credit to him, he had a bad, bad ankle,” Richards said. “I'm shocked — not only that he played, but that he played so well. I'm very impressed with what he did, knowing the severity of the injury.”
Stotler had Plum's first seven points of the second quarter, after Plum held the lead most of the first quarter.
But D'Amico heated up in the third period with three key baskets, including one off a Plum turnover that gave the Foxes their first double-digit lead of the night, 44-33, with 1:59 left in the third period.
A turnaround jumper by Austin Dedert from mid-key brought Plum to within 49-43 with 3:29 to go, but the Mustangs couldn't get any closer.
Plum came into the game as Class AAAA's No. 2 defensive team, yielding just 42.1 points per game.
“Any time you come to Plum, you know you're going to be in for a defensive battle,” Skrinjar said. “They're obviously a well-coached, disciplined team. We prepared with that in mind.”
George Guido is a freelance writer.