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Thomas Jefferson's Shaffer batters Elizabeth Forward inside in Section 4 victory

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Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012

Admittedly so, Joe Shaffer just can't help himself.

Even though the Thomas Jefferson forward routinely towers over everybody, the 6-foot-6 senior tends to find himself hovering around the 3-point line at times.

"Coach (Dom DeCicco) hammers me all the time about that," Shaffer said. "I love to shoot 3-pointers. I always have. I am not going to change."

But for at least one game, Shaffer played the part of a big guy, and Thomas Jefferson reaped the rewards.

Shaffer scored a game-high 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field and grabbed 12 rebounds, 11 of which came in the second half, as the Jaguars stayed pace for a possible second-place finish in Section 4-AAA with a 65-53 win over Elizabeth Forward.

Thomas Jefferson and West Mifflin Area are tied with 8-3 records in the section with one game left.

"Honest to God, if Joe Shaffer realizes he is a big guy, and not Dirk Nowitzki outside shooting jumpers, he can be a force," DeCicco said. "He was so dominant in the second half that I couldn't take him off the court."

Just three weeks ago during their first meeting, Shaffer was anything but dominant —• he was held scoreless.

And get this, Shaffer didn't attempt one jump shot let alone a 3-pointer last night.

"I didn't do a very good job last time," Shaffer said. "They crowded the paint a little bit and my outside shot was off a little bit. Don't think that wasn't motivation tonight."

Zach Schademan complimented Shaffer with 14 points before leaving with an ankle injury while Dom Presto hit a trio of 3-pointers including a game-clinching bomb with two minutes left.

EF got 21 points and 12 rebounds from Nick Fekula, 14 points from Nate Pelco, and 12 from Eric Danko.

"It was (Joe) Carroll and (Jason) Horan who hurt us last time," Elizabeth Forward coach Bob Yasko said. "This time it was Shaffer who killed us."

However, it was the 3-point shot that put a shock into the Warriors early on.

Schademan, Presto and Ben Miscavage hit treys in the first quarter to stake TJ to a 18-13 lead.

After that, Shaffer took over.

He scored eight of Thomas Jefferson's 11 points during a 11-4 run that pushed the Jags' lead to 15, then help the Jags open up a 13-point lead with 6:45 left.

"When you play against a team two times, they make a lot of adjustments," DeCicco said.

EF's adjustments started to pay off in the fourth when an 8-0 got them within 53-48 with Pelco shooting the back end of a one-and-one.

Pelco missed, and Jake Como followed that with two more missed free throws.

In all, EF missed seven of its final 11 free throws down the stretch that proved costly.

"If we are in a position to score, we have to take advantage of it," Yasko said. "Foul shots are free money."

Thomas Jefferson took the reprieve and didn't look back.

Shaffer's tip-in off a missed shot 20 seconds after Como's missed foul shots gave TJ a seven-point lead. Thirty seconds after that, Shaffer's layup pushed the lead to nine and Presto's 3-pointer with 2:03 left gave the Jags an insurmountable 10-point advantage.

"If Shaffer plays like that in the playoffs, I'd be really excited," DeCicco said.

While Thomas Jefferson already clinched a playoff spot, Elizabeth Forward severely damaged its.

Elizabeth Forward (10-10, 4-7) needs a win at rival Belle Vernon on Friday and a South Park (7-13, 5-6) loss at Thomas Jefferson to get it.

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