On a Winning Streak

By: Tuesday, February 6, 2018, TRIB-LIVE

With the outcome having long been decided, Fox Chapel’s Carson Cohen stepped to the foul line and snuck a glance at the scoreboard at Latrobe, which revealed players’ individual point totals.

“I’m going to be a little bit upset about that for a while,” he said, replacing a smirk with a smile. “Not for very long. What’s the use? We got the result we wanted here.”

Cohen tied a career high with 31 points and Dom McGriff added 24 to lead WPIAL Class 6A No. 5 Fox Chapel to a 75-65 Section 3 boys basketball victory over Latrobe on Tuesday, extending the Foxes’ winning streak to eight.

Cohen, who scored 31 points against Gateway in the second game of the season, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 that would have bested that total, but he had no problem just settling for another victory, Fox Chapel’s second of the season against Latrobe.

“We followed the game plan tonight. We’re going to win the game on defense,” Cohen said.

The Foxes’ offense, led by Cohen, who scored 23 in the first half, wasn’t too shabby, either. But, yes, coach Zach Skrinjar agreed the team’s play on defense was a big key to the outcome.

“We certainly know that Latrobe is very good at home,” he said, offering a reminder that Fox Chapel last season scored another rare victory on the Wildcats’ court. “After that first quarter, we got in the huddle and looked at each other. I said, ‘You know, we’re on pace to give up 100 points, fellas,’ and we only give up 49 a game.”

Latrobe, with Ethan Jacquet banking in a 3-point shot at the buzzer, led the Foxes, 24-18, after one period, but lost arguably its top two players — Reed Fenton and Bryce Butler — for brief periods in the second quarter because of foul trouble.

Add to that, the absence of ailing 6-foot-6 senior Marcus Dudzenski, who started the game but quickly found himself sidelined, unable to play because of illness, and coach Brad Wetzel couldn’t find an answer for streaking Fox Chapel (16-4, 10-3).

“What we did in the first quarter, we found out we weren’t able to duplicate much after that,” Wetzel said. “When you’re missing players — and that’s certainly not an excuse or a complaint — but when you don’t have your lineup intact, you find yourself searching for other methods, and it just became extremely difficult to overcome.”

Ben Kelly chipped in 10 points for Fox Chapel, which seized control with a 30-9 advantage in the second quarter, capped by Cohen’s steal and buzzer-beating layup.

He did it again after the third quarter, grabbing a loose ball in the paint and laying in it at the buzzer to give Fox Chapel a 48-33 lead heading to the fourth.

“He’s such an excellent player. They’re an excellent basketball team,” Wetzel said. “Look, you can’t get primed any better for the playoffs than where we are right now. We’re ready with playing (Nos.) 4 and 5, and that might even be higher before the season’s over.”

Latrobe (14-6, 9-4), which saw a four-game winning streak end, plays at No. 4 Penn Hills on Friday night.

Fenton paced the Wildcats with 23 points, while Jason Armstrong scored 17 and Butler added 11.

Fox Chapel’s second-quarter scoring surge set the tone for the rest of the game and the Foxes cruised, withstanding an 18-16 Latrobe edge in the third quarter before outscoring the Wildcats 14-11 in the fourth.

“We really stepped it up on defense after that first quarter. I give my guys credit for turning it around,” Skrinjar said. “We’ve put in a lot of hard work to build this program, and this group is just the next wave getting it done. It’s a tribune to everyone who’s had a hand in it.”

Fox Chapel goes for its ninth victory in a row Friday at home against Plum.