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This season's success could lead to bigger things for Foxes next year

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
The Herald
Fox Chapel junior Connor Duquette sets up shot during a recent game at Fox Chapel High School. Jan Pakler | for The Herald

The Fox Chapel High School boys basketball team saw its hopes of playing in the PIAA basketball tournament vanish last Wednesday.

The Foxes' season came to a halt when North Allegheny fell to Hampton in the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals.

The Foxes needed the Tigers to win the title in order to qualify as the fifth WPIAL AAAA team.

“I guess I can put my North Allegheny shirt away now,” Fox Chapel head coach Zach Skrinjar said. “We held out hope but, realistically, most people figured that New Castle would win.

“That made Gateway the favorite of all the quarterfinal losers since they lost to New Castle.”

Skrinjar said he attended the North Allegheny vs. Hampton game and was hoping for a Tigers' win.

“I was texting the players with updates on the scores,” he said.

The Foxes ended up with a 17-7 mark, and Skrinjar thinks the team accomplished a lot.

“Absolutely, we had a good year,” he said. “We had a lot of growth areas and we improved as the year progressed.

“I had my exit interviews with the players on Thursday and we talked about how we were looking for individual and team improvement next year.”

The Foxes will lose starter Nate Huwar to graduation and return the rest of the team.

“Nate was with us for four years and I can't say enough about him,” Skrinjar said. “He loved basketball and I don't think he missed a practice in all four years.

“It was a nice honor to see him chosen for the Cagers Classic. He will be missed.”

With everybody else coming back, Skrinjar realizes that expectations will be high for next season.

“I anticipate that we'll have a bulls-eye on our back next year,” he said. “We have to take care of what we can control.

“We'll need to keep playing as a unit. That was one of our strengths along with playing within the system.

“Next year, everyone realizes we'll have to step it up a notch.”

Skrinjar is expected tough section competition again next season.

“The section will be just as tough and balanced as it was this year,” he said. “Central Catholic will reload; and McKeesport, Gateway, Plum and Franklin Regional will be strong.

“It won't be a cakewalk, and we'll have to come back better than we were last year.”

Skrinjar said he is expecting to get some help from this year's junior-varsity team.

“Matt (D'Amico), Brian (Papich), Connor (Duquette) and Billy (Urso) have to show the younger players what it takes to win,” Skrinjar said. “We'll be going from a team with one senior to a senior-laden team and that will be a plus.”

Skrinjar and the team will be going back to work in April in preparation for next year.

“We'll be in some spring and summer leagues,” he said. “Last year, we went to Michigan State for a team camp and that was a great experience.

“Come April, we'll start revving it up again.”

Marty Stewart is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-782-2123 or mstewart@tribweb.com.

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