Fox Chapel clinches playoff berth with win at Central Catholic
Fox Chapel has a clean slate.
Senior guard Matt D'Amico scored a game-high 21 points, and Billy Urso added 12 to lead Fox Chapel (16-5, 9-5) to a 56-50 win over Section 2-AAAA rival Central Catholic (11-10, 8-6) on the road Friday.
With the win, the Foxes clinched third place in the section, putting them in the playoffs for back-to-back years. Central Catholic finished fifth and will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
“Everyone's record is back to 0-0,” Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said. “When we kind of figured out the section (title) wasn't in the cards, we just wanted to get in. It was a great game, a great atmosphere, and I'm just really happy that I get to spend a few more days with these guys on the basketball court.”
The game served as a de facto playoff game, with the loser going home and the winner advancing to the postseason, which is exactly why Fox Chapel expected to win.
“For the past week and a half, we've been in playoff mode because we had to win out,” D'Amico said. “I saw heart, passion, determination, everything. Before the game, we were all mentally focused.
“We all came together, and I could see it in every one of the players here.”
Skrinjar saw the same things from his players.
“I had a lot of confidence going in,” Skrinjar said. “They seemed very loose. They seemed like they had a lot of confidence, and I just thought we had more (than Central Catholic). It seemed like it was kind of meant to be that we get in (to the playoffs).”
After splitting its first six section games, Fox Chapel went 6-2 over its final eight, including a 79-66 win over Central Catholic in the first matchup Jan. 14.
At times, it seemed like Central Catholic would avenge that loss Friday.
Fox Chapel missed 12 of its first 14 shots, and the Vikings opened a 13-7 first-quarter lead, holding D'Amico scoreless in the process.
“No basketball is ever going in the hoop unless you shoot it,” Skrinjar said. “We took guys out just to tell them to shoot.”
D'Amico came alive quickly, scoring seven of his team's 12 points in the second quarter to send the Foxes into halftime leading 19-17.
Fox Chapel then stretched its lead to 42-26 early in the fourth before Central Catholic answered with a 12-2 run to get within 44-38. The Vikings closed to within 48-44 but got no closer.
David Brown, who finished with nine points hit several key free throws late to help seal the win.
“It was atypical of our season — played a good quarter, bad quarter, sort of inconsistent,” Central Catholic coach Chuck Crummie said. “It was tough to get our chemistry together, but I thought we battled back there.”
Alex Schoppen led the Vikings with 16 points, and Bricen Garner added 10.
Brian Papich scored seven points for Fox Chapel and needs just 16 to reach 1,000 for his career.
Plum won the Section 2-AAAA title with an 11-3 record. Franklin Regional (10-4) was second. Gateway (9-5) also qualified.
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.