North Xtra: Fox Chapel's D'Amico gets respect

Brad Everett's high school basketball notebook

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Each winter, a handful of WPIAL players make names for themselves with breakout seasons.

Fox Chapel's Matt D'Amico might top this year's group.

D'Amico, a junior guard, has been a scoring machine for Fox Chapel (9-2, 4-1), which is off to one of its best starts in school history.

Through Tuesday's section clash against Gateway, D'Amico is averaging 26.2 points per game, trailing only Shaler's Geno Thorpe for the WPIAL lead.

"He's by far the best player that I've ever coached offensively," Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said. "The thing that's impressive about him is he could score 40 or 50 points some nights, but he's very unselfish."

A three-year starter, D'Amico has been ultra-consistent, scoring at least 20 points in all but two games. He recently had a stretch in which he netted at least 32 points in three out of four games.

Said Skrinjar: "He has a good jump shot. He can get to the rim. He's a good a foul shooter. He can shoot the 3. He can score off the dribble. I think he has a great arsenal."

D'Amico and fellow junior guard Brian Papich (15.6 ppg) help give the Foxes a formidable backcourt.

Flame still burning

With Jon Girvin and his 18-point average on its side, Northgate advanced to the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals last season.

Girvin and two other double-digit scorers have since graduated, but the Flames are actually on pace to post a better record than a season ago.

Northgate is 8-3 and in first place in Section 6-AA with a 4-0 mark after Tuesday's big victory against previous co-leader Sto-Rox. The Flames went 12-10 in last year's regular season en route to a third-place finish in the section. They were just 5-6 through 11 games last season.

Coach Perry Harrop's squad is short on height, but tall on solid guard play. Among this season's standouts are seniors Dylan Muller and Justin Parra, junior Taymon Russell and sophomore Darrell Barron.

Muller and Parra, both of whom have had 22-point efforts, are among only three seniors on the team.

Trojanettes battle tested

If there were "strength of schedule" rankings, no WPIAL girls basketball team might have run through a tougher gauntlet of games than North Catholic.

North Catholic's 6-5 record appears to be a shade better than mediocre, but a deeper look into the team's list of opponents suggests that this Trojanettes team is more than worthy of their No. 3 ranking in Class A.

According to the latest Post-Gazette rankings, North Catholic has already played four ranked teams from higher classifications, including Class AAA No. 1 Blackhawk and Class AA No. 1 Seton-LaSalle. The Trojanettes have also played Class AAAA No. 4 Fox Chapel and Class AA No. 2 Bishop Canevin.

Additionally, North Catholic played Penn-Trafford, which is one of the better teams in Class AAAA. The Trojanettes are 1-5 in those games.

"We do this every year," senior guard Lauren Wolosik said. "Coach [Molly] Rottmann likes to have us battle-tested, so we're able to get better playing those better teams. Even if we don't win, it still benefits us more than if we are blowing teams out."

North Catholic plays host to yet another No. 1 team, Class A top-ranked Vincentian, on Monday. The Trojanettes, a WPIAL and PIAA finalist last year, are 4-0 in Section 2, tied for the lead with Vincentian.

Weekly watch

Here are a couple of boys games to keep an eye on this week.

Friday: New Castle at North Allegheny, 8 p.m. -- No Class AAAA team fills up the basket as much as New Castle (81.5 ppg), but North Allegheny (74.9 ppg) isn't far behind. The Red Hurricane, led by guard Shawn Anderson, have won all of their games by at least 16 points and recently had a three-game stretch in which they averaged 90 per game. North Allegheny guard Adam Haus poured in 29 last week against Butler.

Tuesday: Hampton at New Castle, 7:30 p.m. -- One of the most highly anticipated games of the season features the top two teams in Class AAAA (No. 1 New Castle and No. 2 Hampton). A season ago, New Castle beat Hampton in the WPIAL Class AAA championship game. Hampton junior guard/forward Ryan Luther has established himself as one of the best players in the WPIAL. New Castle has won 40 regular-season games in a row.

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