North Xtra: Fox Chapel's veteran guards supply lots of options

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With an experienced backcourt, Fox Chapel has the ability this season to adjust its game as the matchup dictates.

The Foxes can slow things down, play in a half-court game and prevail when they score in the 60s like they have done this year against Baldwin and McKeesport.

They can also get into a "track meet" and top 100 points such as they did in a 101-71 win at North Hills.

With three returning starters at the guard positions, seniors Matt D'Amico and Brian Papich and junior Bill Urso, the Foxes have the scoring and ballhandling to be a contender for the Class AAAA Section 2 title.

Fox Chapel is 4-1 overall, 1-1 in section play after dropping a 66-63 decision Tuesday night at Franklin Regional. They opened section play with a 63-51 win against McKeesport last Friday.

"It is always nice to have experience back at the guard position, which is so important in high school basketball," Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said.

"On any given night we are capable of shooting the ball and putting up a good amount of points. One hundred points was not really a goal we had a focus on [against North Hills], but the scoring kept going and it is one of those things that happened. We have the ability to put the ball in the basket when we share it and move it."

D'Amico, a 6-foot-3 senior, scored his 1,000th career point on Friday against the Tigers. He averaged 21 points per game last season. He opened the season with a 35-point performance against Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. D'Amico also scored 29 against North Hills.

"Matt has a very good all-around game," Skrinjar said. "He has a pull-up jump shot, he can get to the rim, he can create his own shot, get to the foul line and shoot the 3 ball."

Urso, a 5-11 junior, runs the point for Fox Chapel. He had seven 3-pointers against McKeesport. Papich, a 6-2 senior, is the second-leading returning scorer, he averaged 16 points per game last season.

Connor Duquette, a 6-0 senior guard/forward, is another returning starter and 6-2 junior guard David Brown is back after being the team's sixth man last season. Jake Livingston, a 6-3 freshman, and 6-3 senior Quintin Wirginis, a Pitt football recruit, rotate in at forward positions. Mike Zappala, a 6-3 sophomore, sees playing time at guard.

"So far I think we have done a good job on the boards, rebounding and a very good job of distributing and sharing the ball," Skrinjar said. "They have the experience of playing with each other for numerous years."

Fox Chapel went 10-4 in Section 2 last season, finishing behind Central Catholic (12-2) and Gateway (11-3) and just ahead of McKeesport (9-5). The win against McKeesport to open section play was a significant win in a section that appears to be one of the most balanced in the WPIAL.

"I think it will be a very competitive section from top to bottom," Skrinjar said. "In my opinion it is the best section in Quad-A, top to bottom. Every night is going to be a challenge and you have to be ready to play."

Fox Chapel edged McKeesport in its two meetings last season by a combined three points. This year Fox Chapel was able to win, 63-51.

"We ran out to a little bit of a lead early on but played a little bit sloppy in the second and third quarter," Skrinjar said. "Really, it was our own errors that allowed them to get back into it but in the fourth we buckled down, got some rebounds and took over the game."

Another 100-point performance may still be in the works for Fox Chapel but the team can also expect to be in tight defensive battles where the combined score of both teams does not even reach 100 points.

"Really, I think it will change from game to game," Skrinjar said. "That is the thing I like about the team. We can get into a game where we need to slow it down and we are comfortable playing at that pace.

"But we prefer to play fast, we have some pretty athletic wing guys but we are also capable of executing out of the half-court set and hunkering down."

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