Thomas Jefferson outworks West Mifflin, clinches section title outright
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Thomas Jefferson isn't going to wow you with its size or even any big-time scorers.
It isn't going to impress you with its athleticism, or as Jaguars coach Dom DeCicco put it: “We sure aren't going to dunk on anybody.”
But what they are going to do is beat you up and then beat you.
Every team in Section 4-AAA can attest to that and none more than West Mifflin. The Titans found out for the second time in three weeks.
Thomas Jefferson scrapped and worked its way to its first outright section title in three years and likely a top-five seed in the upcoming Triple-A playoffs with a convincing and workmanlike 57-38 win at West Mifflin (15-5, 10-2).
“There isn't anything fancy we do,” DeCicco said. “It's just like we outwork teams and we pride ourselves on defense.”
Playing with defensive leader Eric Fairman (concussion) and having top scorer Joe Carroll on the bench for the majority of the second quarter in foul trouble, Thomas Jefferson (16-6, 12-0) turned to its defense once again to attain the title.
“We wanted to win the section outright and go 12-0,” Carroll said. “We didn't want to share it with them. We work hard and we watch film and see what they like to do. We game plan around that and how we want to attack them.”
And, of course, that game plan was focused on defense.
TJ forced 23 turnovers, allowed West Mifflin to attempt only 37 shots from the floor — including only three by the Titans' top scorer Ryan Maha in the first half — and pushed the Titans around in the paint by grabbing 14 offensive. It was West Mifflin's worst defeat of the season.
“It is easy to accept this game because we got outplayed,” Maha said. “It wasn't like it came down to a last-second shot. Sometimes you just have to take your hat off to them.”
Carroll led the way with 19 points and Jason Horan 11 while the Jaguars got solid two-way play from Zach Schademan, Adam Miller, Zach Talley and Chase Winovich. DeCicco even got solid minutes from seldom-used Zack Good and Charlie Scharbo.
West Mifflin got 14 points from Ryan Maha on only 4-of-9 shooting from the floor.
“We need to get him the ball more, but he needs to be able get the ball, too,” Lance Maha said. “They contested every pass. We turned it over a lot. Part of it was nerves, but part of it was them, too.”
Thomas Jefferson didn't want to get into a half-court game with the bigger Titans.
“We said all week that it was key to whoever could dictate the pace,” DeCicco said. “If we could speed them up, we felt that we had a legit chance. If it got to a half court game, it would've been a little harder for us.”
TJ opened up a quick 8-2 first-quarter lead, but West Mifflin was able to get even at 10-10 with three minutes left in the quarter.
But Carroll took over after that, scoring seven points in a span of 2:50 including a 3-pointer at the buzzer to extend the lead to 17-10.
It was a lead that TJ would never relinquish even though Carroll found himself on the bench early in the second quarter with his second foul.
“We had to sit down Carroll for a quarter but was able to extend the lead,” DeCicco said. “I think that was a big key.”
West Mifflin got to within 17-14, but TJ rolled off an 11-3 run to end the quarter on the strength of five Horan points and a Good 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“It was a tough stretch coming in,” Maha said. “They hit that three at the buzzer to go down 11 and now you have to battle back. Now you are playing a different type of game.”
It was the type of game Thomas Jefferson thrives in playing.
TJ forced 14 second-half turnovers and opened up a 14-point lead by the end of the third. The Jaguars ground down West Mifflin the final quarter to clinch the section title on the court of its biggest rival.
“For us, there really isn't much we can do about it,” Maha said. “We can watch film and yell and scream, but the reality of it is that we probably played ourselves out of good seed. It just wasn't our night.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Knoch girls seek dividends of experience
- WPIAL AAAA boys basketball preview: Runners-up last season, North Allegheny hopes to take next step
- Serra girls expecting repeat success
- Kiski Area boys a team in transition after graduation of top scorer
- With star Satira gone, Serra Catholic boys basketball to rely on team effort
- Knoch basketball team gets reinforcements
- Latrobe boys look to defend Section 1-AAAA title with experienced lineup
- Elizabeth Forward boys basketball preparing to fill big shoes
- Steel Valley boys put focus back on basketball
- Frazier girls expect success under 2nd-year coach
- Parham set to lead Deer Lakes boys in challenging Section 1-AAA