A two-game losing streak put something of a damper on Fox Chapel’s holiday, but the short break also enabled the Foxes to find their form.
With consistent ball movement and steady shooting — two team hallmarks — the Fox Chapel boys snapped their two-game skid Wednesday with a 59-48 victory over Armstrong on the opening day of Shady Side Academy’s tournament.
“We wanted to get back to how we were playing earlier in the year: unselfish basketball,” said senior Carson Cohen, who scored a game-high 22 points. “We really stressed defending, and I thought we did a good job of that today.”
After dropping a pair of section games to Woodland Hills and Penn Hills last week, Fox Chapel (5-2) hoped to put its three-day stay at Shady Side Academy and an additional nonsection game next week to good use before section play resumes Jan. 5 against Norwin.
The Foxes started off on the right path Wednesday, leading for much of the afternoon contest. Junior Ben Kelly returned after missing the past two games with an illness and made a pair of 3-pointers off the bench as the Foxes hit eight 3s as a team.
“We look at this as kind of its own separate season,” Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said. “ … We still have three more games (to) kind of get everyone back rounded back into shape and take on that second half of what’s going to be an exciting section.”
Fox Chapel, which struggled offensively in a loss to Penn Hills on Friday, faced an Armstrong team that relies on defense. The River Hawks made the game difficult at times, particularly when they slowed the pace in the first half, but Fox Chapel made enough plays to stay ahead.
“I’m not even going to sit here and think we played bad because I don’t think we did at all,” Armstrong coach Greg Hutcherson said. “They just made some shots throughout that game that we contested, but they went in the hole. That’s a great Fox Chapel team. They shoot the ball well, and they’re very, very disciplined.”
Fox Chapel jumped to a seven-point lead after the first quarter and widened it to nine by halftime, even as Armstrong slowed the pace.
The Foxes did some damage at the end of quarters. Noah Marks converted a transition layup in the final seconds of the first quarter, and Steve Susnak added a 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer.
Armstrong struggled from the field in the first half, scoring just 16 points before the break.
“We don’t mind that pace, either — we’re familiar with that pace that they’re going to play,” Skrinjar said. “They’re very disciplined. I thought our man (defense) did a good job of not really giving up any easy hoops.”
The pace quickened in the second half as Armstrong’s Dawson Porter and Nate Baillie made plays that helped the River Hawks (4-3) trim into the Fox Chapel lead. But they could get no closer than four points as Fox Chapel consistently answered made baskets with points of its own. Arnold Vento put the Foxes up double digits early in the fourth, and they led by as many as 18 points.
“We didn’t want to trade points with them,” Hutcherson said. “We would come down and get a nice look and get momentum, and they’d come down and hit a shot. That’s the way the game goes.”
Dominic McGriff added 13 points for Fox Chapel, and Porter and Baillie led Armstrong with 17 and 11 points, respectively.