Foxes Clinch Sole Possession of Section Title

Boys' basketball

Friday, February 11, 2022, TRIB-LIVE

Fox Chapel’s Eli Yofan went from laying under the hoop in pain in the third quarter to swinging on the rim in celebration in the fourth.

The second-ranked Foxes extended their winning streak to 19 games and clinched the section title outright Friday night with a 75-65 victory over No. 3 Central Catholic, led in large part by Yofan, who returned quickly from a third-quarter injury and scored a team-high 21 points.

The Section 3-6A finale drew a standing-room crowd to Central Catholic gym.

Yofan’s final points were a breakaway dunk at the buzzer, but Fox Chapel fans were holding their breath a little earlier. The star senior hurt his right knee on a layup with about six minutes left in the third quarter but missed only 88 seconds of actual game time.

“It hurt pretty bad at the time, but at that point I was like, ‘I can’t go out of this game,’ ” said Yofan, who scored 13 points in the second half. “There’s no way this is going to stop me.”

Fox Chapel needed him on the court in a tight fourth quarter to counter Central Catholic’s Dante DePante, who scored a game-high 28 points. DePante went 9 for 20 shooting with three 3-pointers.

But Yofan was hardly a one-man offense.

Fox Chapel’s Jake DeMotte scored 18 points with four 3-pointers, J.P. Dickey added 12 points and Colin Kwiatkowski had nine, including four crucial free throws in the final minute to keep the Foxes in the lead.

“I have faith in our team with or without Eli,” Fox Chapel coach Zack Skrinjar said. “Obviously he’s a huge part of it, but those guys still have that desire to win.”

The victory puts Fox Chapel (20-1, 10-0) in position for one of the top seed when the WPIAL playoff brackets are revealed at 5 p.m. Monday on TribLive HSSN. The section title was the team’s third in a row.

“That was important,” Skrinjar said. “It’s another box checked off, and now we’ve got other goals we want to achieve.”

Having Yofan healthy and available makes the Foxes a much more potent team in the postseason. Skrinjar said Yofan would be evaluated, but thought his knee was OK, especially since he was able to finish the game.

“He looked all right on that last shot,” Skrinjar said of the dunk.

Central Catholic (16-5, 8-2) was trying to win a share of a section title, which would have been the team’s first since 2018. The Vikings trailed by 11 points at half but didn’t fade away. A layup by Langston Moses with one minute left cut Fox Chapel’s lead to 67-63.

The Vikings then forced a quick turnover but their 3-pointer missed and Kwiatkowski grabbed a crucial rebound in the final minute. Kwiatkowski made two free throws with 50 seconds left and two more at the 33-second mark.

Fox Chapel led 71-63.

Kwiatkowski went 7 for 7 from the foul line.

This was a much different game than when the teams first met Jan. 18, and Fox Chapel won, 54-37, with a stifling defensive effort. Central Catholic scored only 16 points combined in the first three quarters that game.

This time, Fox Chapel led 55-50 after three.

“We didn’t really defend as well, and they did a good job pushing the tempo a little bit more,” Skrinjar said. “But I do think we actually shared the ball better this game than we did the first time.”

Fox Chapel had attacked the rim in the first half, an aggressive approach that led to layups, foul shots and a key 13-4 run. The Foxes scored 20 points in the paint, and Central Catholic was called for 12 first-half fouls.

The run started with a last-second layup in the first quarter and extended into the second. Fox Chapel’s 18-13 lead quickly became a 31-17 advantage with about 5 minutes left until halftime.

Fox Chapel led 43-32 at half.

Fox Chapel only loss this season came Dec. 11 at North Hills, the No. 1-ranked team in WPIAL Class 6A. North Hills won 87-57.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter