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Fox Chapel girls beat Pine-Richland with big 3rd quarter

| Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, 11:12 p.m.

Of the several breakdowns Fox Chapel's girls basketball team endured in the first half of its WPIAL Class AAAA first-round game against Pine-Richland, coach Meghan Meabon considered the Foxes' underwhelming rebounding performance the most unacceptable.

Meabon held no part of her dissatisfaction back when he addressed the girls at halftime.

The Foxes held Pine-Richland to five points in the third quarter.

Down by two points at halftime, No. 3 seed Fox Chapel (18-4) rallied and topped the No. 14 Rams, 47-37, on Tuesday at North Hills. The Foxes will play No. 6 Norwin (17-5) in the quarterfinals Friday at a site and time to be determined.

“I flipped out on them about rebounding in the first half,” Meabon said. “We knew we didn't play to our potential. We missed some easy shots, and we weren't giving ourselves second opportunities because our offensive rebounding was kind of blah.”

Pine-Richland (14-9), which listed no player on its roster taller than 5-foot-11, needed someone who could defensively challenge Fox Chapel 6-foot-3 senior forward Erin Mathias, a Duke recruit. The Rams turned to a double-team scheme in the second half but still struggled to slow Mathias, who finished with 23 points, 16 rebounds and eight blocks.

“The game plan was, don't let her touch (the ball),” Pine-Richland coach Cliff Foster said. “Make the other four beat you, and we did that for a while. … When she touches the ball, forget the talent; it's just so unique, and bad things happen.”

Mathias' value also became apparent when Pine-Richland attempted to dictate the game's tempo by using a full-court press. The Foxes countered the press by placing Mathias in the center of the court, where she saw over any oncoming defenders and moved the ball seamlessly.

“I think it's good to give the other team a different look,” Mathias said. “Rather than put me back all the time, we're a little unpredictable with me in the middle.”

The clear edge in post play brought about by Mathias and sophomore forward Anna Kelly saved Fox Chapel during the first half. The Foxes, though an inefficient 8 for 30 from the field through two quarters, grabbed 10 offensive rebounds.

Three putbacks and four other field goals in the paint during the third quarter led to a far more satisfying show for Fox Chapel, which also blocked four Pine-Richland shots in that quarter and held an 8-2 edge in rebounds.

“We just had to keep our positivity,” Mathias said. “Especially at halftime, coach got on us, and we came out fired up and ready to go. ... My teammates have worked really hard on helping me on the boards, and that's what they did in the second half for sure.”

Caitlyn Byerly and Chelsea Rourke kept Pine-Richland's comeback hopes alive, as they accounted for 15 of the Rams' second-half points. Bylerly scored 14, and Rourke had 15.

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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