Fox Chapel girls hold off Butler for first playoff win since 2010
With the lead leaking away and a golf ball-sized bump growing on the right cheek of their star player, Fox Chapel's girls could have panicked in their first playoff game in two years.
Instead, the Foxes finished with a flurry and held off hard-charging Butler, 45-36, in a WPIAL Class AAAA first-round game Tuesday night at North Allegheny.
No. 8 seed Fox Chapel (18-5) led by as many as 10 in the first half, but No. 9 Butler (13-10)came roaring back in the second half, finally taking a 34-33 lead with about three minutes left.
Fox Chapel? Worry?
“We knew we had a lot of time left,” said Fox Chapel junior forward Erin Mathias, whose head hit the floor hard early in the fourth quarter. Mathias was woozy but returned.
Mathias sported an ice pack on her face after the game. She managed just nine points after posting a triple-double in her past two games. But her teammates picked up the slack on the big stage and helped the Foxes advance to the quarterfinals to face No. 1 Mt. Lebanon (21-2) on Friday.
Alexa Yaksich, a 5-foot-10 senior, scored a team-high 13 points, and freshman guard Kayla Slovenec added 10 to lead the Foxes to their first postseason win since 2010.
After Butler took the lead, Fox Chapel changed gears. The Foxes went on a 10-2 run, including 7-0 in the final 50 seconds to seal it.
“We're a very young team; we weren't in the playoffs last year,” Foxes coach Meghan Meabon said. “We knew we'd have our ups and downs today, but our perseverance paid off.”
MacKenzie O'Donnell's basket put the Golden Hurricane ahead by one. But Mathias scored on a rebound, freshman Taylor Cohen converted a layup off a steal with 32.4 seconds left then hit three free throws for the Foxes' final points.
“Like all season long, we kept our poise,” Meabon said.
Mathias was impressed with how her teammates played down the stretch.
“We kept our composure,” said Mathias, a Duke recruit. “This was the first playoff win for us. Alexa really helped get us going. She grabbed some big offensive rebounds early on.”
Yaksich, who scored nine in the first half, said the team remained calm despite the late adversity.
“Erin had a lot of pressure on her,” she said. “We knew we had to step up. We have been in a lot of close games all season and managed to pull through.”
Fox Chapel led, 15-5, after the first quarter. Butler got to within 24-17 at the half and surged in the third, punctuating the quarter with a 3-pointer by Caitlin Baxter with three seconds left to cut it to 29-25.
Julia Baxter led Butler with 16 points, and O'Donnell added 10.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.