North Xtra: Fox Chapel basketball sprints out to a 7-0 start
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When Fox Chapel boys basketball coach Zach Skrinjar and junior guard Matt D'Amico were asked separately the key to the Foxes' early season success, both had the same answer.
Fox Chapel is playing together as a unit.
The team play has helped the Foxes (7-0, 3-0 in Section 2-AAAA) to their best start in more than a decade. They are tied with Gateway (4-0, 3-0), the defending WPIAL Class AAAA champion, for the section lead.
"The key so far is everyone is playing together," Skrinjar said. "Everyone on the team knows his role and is doing his job. They are all following the game plan. When you do that, you're going to be successful."
A main part of the team's game plan on offense is ball movement.
"I think we have played very unselfishly so far," D'Amico said. "Coach is always stressing to us about making the extra pass."
D'Amico, a 6-3 shooting guard, has been able to get himself open plenty this season. He has been in the Foxes starting lineup since his freshman season and is one of the top scorers in the classification this season, scoring at least 22 points in five games this season.
For the second consecutive season, Brian Papich joins him in the starting backcourt. Papich, a junior, has led the Foxes in scoring two of their past three games.
"Even though they are only juniors, both have stepped up as leaders this season," Skrinjar said. "Both are gym rats. They are always the first ones at practice and the last two to leave. They also show up on their own time to put up shots. They are good role models for the younger guys."
Although the Foxes main scorers are in the backcourt, their frontcourt has been a big key to their success as well.
Skrinjar praised the work of Connor Duquette, a 5-foot-11 forward who bangs with much bigger bodies and does most of the team's "dirty work," such as taking charges and getting key rebounds.
Billy Urso, a 5-10 junior guard, has been another key contributor, scoring in double figures several times already this season.
The team has also gotten contributions from David Brown, a 6-2 sophomore swing man, Alden Stone, a 6-5 junior forward, and Nate Huwar, a 6-0 senior guard.
"They are our unsung heroes," Skrinjar said. "You don't see their names in the boxscore as much, but we appreciate all the work these guys do."
Fox Chapel is trying to qualify for the postseason for the first time since the 2009-10 season. The Foxes haven't won a playoff game since it advanced to the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals in 2006-07.
But last season, despite missing the playoffs, the Foxes won five of their final six games to finish 14-8.
With the Foxes already at 7-0, the buzz surrounding the team has picked up.
"Now in the hallways people will come up to you and say, 'Hey great game last night,'" D'Amico said.
But the Foxes are focusing on the next team on their schedule -- and in this case that would be tonight against a tough opponent, Hempfield Area (7-1), in the Montour Holiday Tournament.
"We're just trying to look to the present and not get too far ahead," Skrinjar said.
First Published December 27, 2012 12:00 am