Fox Chapel star Mathias fired up for states

| Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 10:06 p.m.

The PIAA basketball playoffs provide the ultimate second chance for WPIAL teams, especially those that felt they underachieved in the district tournament.

Count Fox Chapel among that group. The Foxes haven't come this far in the postseason since 2009, but they're seeking redemption after experiencing that jilted-at-the-altar feeling at WPIALs. To rub salt in the wound, they came up short during a season when Quad-A revealed one of its most wide-open fields in years.

The team has carried an easy-come, easy-go exterior all season, but senior center Erin Mathias thinks it's time for this group to get tough, bear its teeth.

“We just didn't work hard enough,” said Mathias, a 6-foot-3 Duke recruit. “We have the talent; we just have to put it together with all the other little things and outwork the other teams we see from here on out.”

Fox Chapel (19-5), which lost to eventual WPIAL champion Penn-Trafford in the semifinals, will look to begin a new playoff run at 6 p.m. on Friday when it plays Erie McDowell (15-7) in a PIAA first-round game at Mercyhurst University in Erie.

It will be a rematch of last season's holiday tournament at McDowell when Fox Chapel beat the host team, 42-33.

“When we played (McDowell) last year they were fairly young,” Foxes coach Meghan Meabon said. “They have a nice group of athletes with experience. They have some nice height across the board and shoot the ball well.”

Meabon lived in Erie for a few years. Her husband was born and raised there and she coached at General McLane for four years prior to moving back to the Pittsburgh area and taking the job at Fox Chapel.

She thinks her team is ready for a long road trip and set to embrace a new experience.

“The team appears to be very focused,” Meabon said. “The loss hurt so much the other night that I believe they will fight and scrap to the end, knowing that there are not any other second chances for this season.”

McDowell was hit hard by graduation losses, but still found its way to the District 10 championship game under second-year coach Megan Fiala, Meabon's former teammate and roomate at Edinboro.

McDowell is led by a pair of guards: junior Marissa Molnar and senior Krissy Fromknecht, who scored 13 and 10, respectively, in a 71-53 win over Central Tech in the D-10 championship game. Molnar has the team's only double-digit average, though, at 11.2 points a game.

McDowell lost in the PIAA first round to Gateway last season.

Mathias said Fox Chapel wasn't “jelling on defense” against Penn-Trafford. Meabon thinks the difference from this point on is rebounding and “finishing in the paint.”

“Basically, it's the team that shows up and fights the hardest for four quarters,” Meabon said.

Fox Chapel hasn't had a 20-win season since 2009.

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