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Expectations remain high for Fox Chapel boys basketball

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Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Fox Chapel's Matt D'Amico (left) and Brian Papich battle for position as coach Zach Skrinjar looks on during a practice Wednesday November 20, 2013, at Fox Chapel.
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Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, 12:16 a.m.

With two of the top scorers in Quad A returning from a team that finished 17-7 and went two-rounds deep in the WPIAL playoffs, much will be expected of Fox Chapel boys basketball.

But that comes as no surprise to coach Zach Skrinjar who believes anything less would be selling the program short.

“I don't think it's a pressure-thing so much,” Skrinjar said. “Everyone thinks there's all these expectations. From the time I took over here, I have always had high expectations in terms of how we play and where we finish. That hasn't changed since Day 1.”

The senior backcourt tandem of 6-foot-3 Matt D'Amico and 6-2 Brian Papich combined for nearly 900 points last season, finding the basket in a variety of ways, pull-up jumpers and athletic drives by D'Amico, and soft lay-ins and acrobatic dunks for Papich.

D'Amico, who averaged 21.2 points per game, second-best in Quad-A, needs 78 points to reach 1,000 for his career. He is a fourth-year starter and the go-to scorer — most of the time.

“He wants the ball at the end,” Skrinjar said. “But we have three capable guys and they all do it in their own way. They showed that last year in big games.”

Papich averaged 15 points. Junior guard Billy Urso, who played quarterback for the football team, is another returning starter and senior guard Connor Duquette also returns.

“All three are unselfish and know they can kick it out to each other,” Skrinjar said. “Matt will get a lot of attention, but Billy and Brian will show up on a lot of coaches' scouting reports too.”

Urso and Duquette, a soccer player and kicker in football, are working their way back to basketball form.

D'Amico and Papich have been mainstays at open gyms and both had busy summers playing AAU.

“Billy's in the best shape I've ever seen him in and Connor is always in fantastic shape,” Skrinjar said. “Matt and Brian haven't missed a beat.”

Skrinjar said Duquette and 6-2 junior swingman David Brown will fill out the starting five.

Expect an up-tempo style again from the Foxes, who averaged 58 points per game.

“We're improving; hopefully we can hit our stride by late January and early February,” Skrinjar said. “We have a system in place that fits our personnel. If nothing else, we're going to focus on fundamentals. We have good shooters. We want perfect passes that hit them in the hands.”

Other key players are 6-4 junior forward Jack Lundy, 6-3 freshman forward Jake Livingston, 6-3 sophomore guard Michael Zappala and 6-3 senior forward Quintin Wirginis, who missed his senior football season with a foot injury but is expected to make a return to basketball.

Wirginis is a Pitt recruit as a linebacker.

“He will help us. He looks like Thor out there,” Skrinjar said.

Finding a comfortable spot in any Quad-A section, let alone one among the WPIAL's best, comes with no guarantees.

“There's always a lot more competition out there than you think,” Skrinjar said. “You can't let your guard down.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at

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