Fox Chapel, SSA benefit from tourney
The Peter Sauer Memorial Tournament began play on Dec. 27 as eight teams took to the court at Shady Side Academy.
Fox Chapel and Shady Side Academy both picked up narrow wins in their opening round games. The Foxes, led by Carson Cohen’s 14 points, rallied to beat Seneca Valley, 46-42, while SSA squeaked by Riverside, 56-53. That set up a semifinal matchup between the victors Dec. 28.
Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar felt the 1:30 p.m. starting time Dec. 27 made an impact.
“I think both teams had a little rust and playing at 1:30 is somewhat of a challenge,” Skrinjar said. “We had some very good looks early that we didn’t knock down, but we continued to stay with the game plan and hit some big shots down the stretch. The main thing was that no one tried to do too much and, even when we were down by four late in the game, there was no panic. We got the stops when we needed to finish out the game.”
In the semifinals, the Foxes prevailed over SSA by a 64-48 score, despite a 20-point effort from the Indians’ Etai Groff. In the championship game Dec. 29, Fox Chapel coasted to a 72-52 win over Community School of Naples, Fla. Jake Livingston had a game-high 24 points.
SSA fell to Woodland Hills, 73-41, in the third-place game.
Both Skrinjar and SSA coach David Vadnais felt the tournament was beneficial.
“I thought that every game of the tournament we improved,” Skrinjar said. “Our defense in all three games kind of carried us. We’re not a flashy bunch, but we have bought into the idea that we can bring defense to every game.
“There will be nights when the offense may not be clicking, but defense can carry team a long way. It was also nice to win the tournament. That was our goal at practice. We viewed it as a three-game season and our goal was to win the championship, and we achieved that. We received numerous strong efforts along the way and everyone who played had some shining moments. It was also nice to see some individuals get recognized with Carson, Michael Snowball and Livingston earning all-tournament honors and Jake getting MVP. In the end, though, it was a team effort”.
Vadnais felt his team rose to the challenge in each game.
“I went into the tournament knowing we would have three very challenging games,” Vadnais said. “We’ve played Riverside the past couple of years, and they were always good and well-coached. I thought we played a good game outside of the final couple of minutes. We didn’t execute and let them back in the game. In the end, a win is a win.
“Fox Chapel is very good this year, as their record indicates. Falling behind 10-0 was the last thing we could let happen. I loved the way our guys fought back, though. They never gave up. At different points throughout the game, we had opportunities to make it a one or two possession game, but couldn’t make the shot and they would go down and get a basket to extend the lead back out. Although we didn’t win, I think we can take a lot of positive things from the game.
“Woodland Hills is another talented team. They jumped out on us like Fox Chapel did but we weren’t able to respond like we did the previous night. Even though we lost two games, I hope we can learn from playing quality teams that are bigger than us. I believe the three games will benefit us as we begin section play next week.”
Marty Stewart is a freelance writer.