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A-K Valley H.S. notebook: Waiting is hardest part for Fox Chapel boys

Doug Gulasy
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar encourages his team against Penn-Trafford on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 at Fox Chapel.

By the time Fox Chapel tips off its WPIAL Class 6A boys basketball first-round matchup against Seneca Valley on Tuesday, the Foxes will have gone eight days between games.

That’s actually a short amount of time compared to the past two years.

Fox Chapel had a first-round bye each of the past two seasons, then lost its first playoff game after the long layoff. The Foxes (15-7), who received the No. 6 seed this season, are hoping they can change their fate this time around.

“I guess we’ll see,” Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said. “I think 14 days is a lot, which we’ve had in the past. This is still eight, so it will give us some time to heal up … try to get back into that playing mode and try to be prepared.”

No Alle-Kiski Valley team received a first-round bye, with the top seed — No. 4 — going to Freeport in the Class 4A girls bracket. St. Joseph’s (Class A) and Highlands’ (Class 4A) boys teams each received the No. 5 seeds in their classifications.

Three teams — the Riverview girls and Leechburg and St. Joseph boys — will begin their postseason runs on the earliest possible night, as they play Friday.

“I didn’t want to sit and wait,” St. Joseph coach Kelly Robinson said. “Practices get very stale when you’re sitting there and waiting, and then when you get closer to game time, you’re afraid of kids getting hurt.”

Knoch ‘smelling the roses’

Chris Andreassi didn’t buy Freeport’s girls basketball team any flowers for Valentine’s Day, but he seriously considered it. Especially after the thoughtful present Andreassi and his Knoch team got from the Yellowjackets last week.

Freeport’s win over Apollo-Ridge in a Section 1-4A finale Feb. 9 lifted Knoch into a tie for third place with Apollo-Ridge and Greensburg Salem, with all three teams qualifying for the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs. An Apollo-Ridge win would have kept Knoch (9-13) home for the postseason.

Although Freeport and Knoch are neighbors and rivals, all of the Knights were rooting for the Yellowjackets that night.

“There’s really a lot of respect, certainly from our girls to them,” Andreassi said. “It was strange, but it really wasn’t hard rooting for them. All things being equal, they’re easy girls to root for.”

Ellwood City reached the playoffs in a similar fashion. The Wolverines needed Beaver to beat Mohawk on Feb. 9, and that happened.

In Knoch’s case, the Knights were playing a nonsection game against Armstrong that began while Freeport and Apollo-Ridge were in the second half of their game. Andreassi found out about Freeport’s win in the second quarter.

The Knights players didn’t want to know the result of Freeport’s game until after their own game ended, which Andreassi considers a sign of maturity from a team that broke in five new starters after making the playoffs last season.

“I told them anything that happens now is good for us,” said Andreassi, whose team received the No. 12 seed in Class 4A and will play No. 5 Elizabeth Forward at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Mt. Lebanon. “They’re all back next year. They’re learning the playoffs and they’re learning the kind of focus they need. … I told them to stop, take it all in, smell the roses, enjoy the moment and just go play basketball. We’re going there to win.”

Study boost

Skrinjar has a leg up on some of his fellow coaches when it comes to preparing for Fox Chapel’s first opponent. The Foxes played Seneca Valley in mid-December, winning 52-45.

“It’s a tough team,” Skrinjar said. “There’s some familiarity there, even though it was early in the season. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Fox Chapel-Seneca Valley is one of two regular-season rematches involving Alle-Kiski Valley teams in the first round. The other features the Leechburg girls against Vincentian in Class A. The former section rivals met in mid-December, with Vincentian winning 63-19.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at [email protected] or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.