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McKeesport trips Fox Chapel to stay on upswing

| Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, 11:33 p.m.

McKeesport enjoyed an inspired effort Friday night, resulting in a 64-53 victory over Fox Chapel, but the Tigers had little time to dwell on it.

Coach Corey Gadson said they had better be ready Saturday for a rematch with Greensburg Central Catholic — one of the best boys basketball teams in the WPIAL — when the two meet at 7 p.m. at Seton Hill University for the Coaches vs. Cancer Backyard Brawlz.

“We need to keep it going. We need to play the way we did tonight,” Gadson said of the WPIAL Section 2-AAAA game at McKeesport that saw the Tigers jump on Fox Chapel early and build a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter to avenge a 12-point loss to the Foxes (11-4, 4-3) on Dec. 13.

“This is a win we had to have,” Gadson said. “Our zone defense frustrated them. They were off most of the night.”

Khalil Perdue had 15 points and 15 rebounds, and Jordan Payne scored a team-high 17 to power McKeesport over the cold-shooting Foxes, who lost for the third time in four games.

The improving Tigers (6-8, 3-5), who lost to Class AA No. 2 Greensburg Central by three points in their Dec. 6 opener at the Hempfield Tournament, won for the third time in five games. There was no such collapse like the one McKeesport experienced in blowing a 15-point second-half lead and dropping a 64-59 decision at Gateway on Tuesday.

“Every coach is just trying to get to that four-minute mark in the fourth quarter when you have a big lead like we did the last two games,” Gadson said. “It was a relief when it was over tonight. We went into the locker room and everybody just felt that we are a better team than we've shown. We can play with anyone in this section.”

The Tigers' lineup had been shuffled because of ankle injuries to Payne — the team's diminutive point guard — and fellow guard Javon Grayson. But since they've returned, McKeesport has been on the upswing.

Grayson added 10 points for the Tigers, who shot 14 of 17 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, including 6 of 7 by Payne, and was 19 for 24 overall compared to 15 for 18 for Fox Chapel.

But Fox Chapel made just five second-half field goals after falling behind at halftime 35-28 following a buzzer-beating shot by McKeesport's David Queen.

McKeesport opened the third quarter on a 9-1 run and led 61-41 late in the fourth before Gadson started stirring his bench.

“They didn't do anything we didn't know they would do,” Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said. “We just picked a poor time to have a bad shooting day.”

Matt D'Amico led Fox Chapel with 19 points and Brian Papich added 17.

Perdue dominated in the paint for McKeesport, getting multiple second-chance shots and plucking a load of defensive rebounds.

“We had him circled before the game, but we didn't box him out,” Skrinjar said.

Both teams are in the hunt for a playoff spot out of the competitive Section 2-AAAA, with McKeesport moving within two games of fifth-place Fox Chapel.

“I've been on record as saying it. This might be the most competitive section in the WPIAL,” Skrinjar said. “When you go on the road, you better be ready to play against anyone.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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