Fox Chapel girls hope for last laugh
The girls play better when they're smiling.
Those words, uttered by first-year Fox Chapel girls basketball coach Meghan Meabon, couldn't be more true.
Smiling, though, often becomes giggling.
"Our girls are a bunch of goofballs," Meabon said with a laugh. "I think I'm more nervous than them before games."
From practical jokes, to gag gifts, to superstitious stories about coloring books and candy, the Foxes are a unique bunch whose humor eases the transition to seriousness by the opening tip.
This team's a riot.
The quirkiness has helped Fox Chapel ease the tension -- to the tune of an 12-2 record and a first-place tie with Oakland Catholic in Section 2-AAAA.
"This group of juniors and seniors have grown up together and been on AAU teams together," Meabon said. "They're like sisters. They have arguments like any family does. But they do anything for each other. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don't have chemistry, it can make for a long season."
Senior forward Jenny Papich, the team's top scorer at 17 points per game, said the team does one of two things to relax, sometimes both.
First, there are the coloring books and crayons. The team colors on the bus on road trips.
"A couple girls were getting tense before games, so me and (senior teammate) Sara D'Amico thought, 'What can keep their minds off the game and keep them loose?' We got some coloring books."
Then there's the Sour Patch Kids -- the face-puckering, sugar-coated gummy candy -- that Papich made popular with teammates.
"I like to have sugar at halftime; I have been doing that for a couple of years now," Papich said. "Some freshmen saw me eating Sour Patch Kids, and one of their moms bought this huge bag of them. We've been eating them ever since."
"Hey, it works for them," Meabon said.
The team does a Secret Santa each year and buys off-the-wall gifts for one another.
Like, Zac Efron "High School Musical" socks.
"Or, if one of the girls have a crush on somebody, we'll get the guy to do something," said Papich, a Gannon recruit. "We'll have him come into practice and hand the girl a present."
Papich wants the Foxes to be mentioned among the WPIAL's elite, with the likes of Mt. Lebanon and Bethel Park.
"We're always seen as the underdog," she said. "Last year, no one respected us to do what we did. But that doesn't affect how we think."
Fox Chapel reached the WPIAL title game last season under coach Rich Mull, but it did so with a different demeanor.
Only two starters returned this season.
"It was a different mentality last season," Papich said. "There were different ways in which we got focused. It's a completely different mindset and atmosphere this year."
But it still works. And that's no joke.