Poor shooting dooms Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson girls basketball coach Dom DiMattia knew he had a big dilemma facing him Monday with Ringgold's duo of 6-foot-2 Josie Schmidt and her younger sister, 6-3 Marlena Schmidt.
Turns out that paled in comparison to the biggest problem the Jaguars encountered in a Section 4-AAA game they had to win to have any realistic chance of taking part in the playoffs in two weeks.
Thomas Jefferson just couldn't shoot the ball.
The Jaguars already couldn't challenge in the paint with the Schmidt sisters lurking, but complicated things even further when they missed 44 of 52 shots from the floor, including 14 of 18 3-pointers, en route to one of its worst offensive outputs of the season in a 43-32 loss to Ringgold.
“They blocked every shot we attempted inside and we couldn't make a shot from the outside, so what do you do?” DiMattia said.
The loss dropped Thomas Jefferson (7-11, 4-5) into a tie with Ringgold (8-9, 5-5) for the fourth and final playoff spot in the section. However, the Rams have the first tiebreaker by winning both head-to-head meetings.
With a Ringgold win over Brownsville (5-12, 1-8) on Thursday, Thomas Jefferson would have to win its remaining games at West Mifflin (7-10, 6-3), at Belle Vernon (13-4, 7-2) and against Waynesburg (3-14, 0-9) and have Elizabeth Forward (17-1, 9-0) beat Ringgold in the season finale to make the playoffs.
Both coaches knew the importance of the game.
“This was a must-win for us,” Nick Mandich said. “Without this one, it would've been over. It was a big win for us.”
DiMattia added: “This was the one we needed, but now…”
Ringgold can thank the Schmidt sisters for keeping its playoffs hopes alive.
Josie Schmidt scored a game-high 15 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked five shots, and Marlena Schmidt finished with eight points, eight rebounds and nine blocks.
Alexis Yanief led Thomas Jefferson with nine points, and Jessie Hinkle added eight.
“We took away what they wanted to do,” Mandich said. “What they want to do is drive to the hoop and try to draw a foul. I tell them every game that we are blocking everything that comes inside.”
TJ adjusted by taking jump shots and 3-pointers. That didn't work either, especially in the second half when it shot 3 of 26 from the floor.
“They were in that 2-3 zone and said go ahead and shoot,” DiMattia said. “It was air balls. We had out-of-bounds plays set up perfect, and we are wide-open and nothing. That is the way it goes sometimes. Some nights they go in, some nights they don't go in, and tonight they didn't go in.”
Yet Thomas Jefferson was still in the game when Yanief hit a 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter, closing the gap to 30-24.
It was as close as they got. The Schmidt sisters blocked five shots in the fourth as the Rams put the game away at the foul line.
“Those are two of the biggest girls I ever saw,” DiMattia said. “For girls, that's big. That's like going against 6-8 and 6-9 boys.”