Thomas Jefferson boys use 3-pointers to wrap up Section 4-AAA title
Ask Thomas Jefferson coach Dom DeCicco who he would want to take a potential game-winning 3-point shot to clinch a second consecutive Section 4-AAA championship, and Eric Fairman would be way down on that list.
Actually Fairman might not even make that list, and you wouldn't get much of an argument from the bruising senior forward more known for his play in the paint than anything else.
Making only four 3-pointers all season, Fairman found himself where he is the most comfortable — with a chance to be the hero.
Fairman's 3-pointer as time expired highlighted an improbable 73-72 come-from-behind victory over host Steel Valley (13-4, 7-4) in a game that featured 25 ties and lead changes.
“This is the type of game I expected,” DeCicco said. “Well, maybe not the final seconds.”
What a stunning final seconds it was as Thomas Jefferson (18-2, 10-1) scored nine points on three 3-pointers over the final 21 seconds to overcome a six-point deficit to win its 11th straight game and solidify itself as one of the top seeds in the upcoming Class AAA playoffs.
It was Steel Valley's first lost at home this season.
“It is going to sting for a while, and it's going to be one that they are going to remember,” Steel Valley coach Shawn McCallister said.
The Jaguars have Fairman's unlikely heroics to thank for that.
“He wasn't my first choice to take that shot, that's for sure,” DeCicco said.
“The kid just loves the limelight. One thing about him, whether he makes that shot or not, he isn't afraid to make that play.”
It was Fairman's second game-winner in two weeks. His last-second layup against Elizabeth Forward on Jan. 24 gave TJ another improbable come-from-behind win.
This time was a little different kind of game-winner for Fairman.
“I don't shoot threes,” Fairman said. “Of all the 22 people on the team, I am the last one you want taking that shot.”
But the Jaguars had limited options after finding themselves down late in the game. Steel Valley appeared to finally take control midway through the fourth quarter because of the play of Dorian Broadwater.
Broadwater scored 11 of his 21 points over the final 4:32, including nine of Steel Valley's 11 points after TJ took a 62-61 lead with two minutes left.
The Ironmen led 71-64 with 21 seconds left.
“At that point, I was saying on the bench a couple of times that we have to be positive because we want to beat West Mifflin Friday,” DeCicco said. “When you have a lot of seniors who have been through the wars, you are never out of the game.”
But it did look grim, especially when Charlie Scharbo fouled out down the stretch.
“Of course, there was some doubt,” Fairman said. “But we have a never-quit mentality. There is something special about this team.”
Zach Talley, who scored a game-high 24 points, hit his fifth 3-pointer with 21 seconds left to make it 70-67.
After Broadwater made one foul shot, Zack Good converted his fourth 3-pointer of the game to get the Jaguars within 71-70 with 9.8 seconds left.
After Kennedy Smith made the back end of a one-and-one to make it 72-70, it was Fairman's time to shine.
Good raced down the court and found Fairman on the wing right in front of TJ's bench.
“I'd want Fairman to take that shot any day of the week,” McCallister said. “We were covering all of their shooters and was comfortable with him taking that shot. He stuck it. Give him credit.”
Steel Valley wasted a solid effort from Broadwater (21 points) and junior center Dom Keyes, who finished with 22 points, 18 rebounds (nine offensive) and 5 blocks. Ajan Smith added 12 points for the Ironmen.
“They deserved to win that game, we didn't,” DeCicco said. “But still, our kids found a way to win.”