Thomas Jefferson boys race past West Allegheny in Class AAA opener
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Dom DeCicco wasn't particularly happy with what he was seeing, so the Thomas Jefferson coach swung around to the bench and ordered his starters back onto the court.
Now, if the worst thing that happened in a first-round playoff game was that the junior varsity players weren't performing very well in the waning moments of a decided game, then you know that things went well.
No. 2 Thomas Jefferson (21-2) used first-half runs of 16-1 and 13-1 and added a 19-3 spurt late in the game to move to the quarterfinals of the Class AAA playoffs with a decisive 63-41 win over West Allegheny (13-12) at Chartiers Valley.
It was Thomas Jefferson's 14th consecutive victory and sets up Friday's showdown with perennial power Blackhawk (12-11), a 49-42 winner over Knoch.
Afterward, DeCicco was able to joke about sending the starters back into the game leading by 21 with a little more than two minutes left.
“I will tell you this, I never feel safe,” DeCicco said. “That's just me. I just never do.”
Charlie Scharbo led Thomas Jefferson with 21 points and eight rebounds, and Jason Horan added 15 points, and Eric Fairman locked down West Allegheny's leading scorer Mike Miara and held him to a season-low six points on 3 of 7 shooting.
“I don't think people realize how great of a defender Eric Fairman is,” DeCicco said. “He was in his face all night. Eric was great.”
West Allegheny got 22 points from Andrew Koester, including 10 within a span of 80 seconds late in the game when TJ brought in its backups. The rest of the team combined for 19 points.
“They made us play so far away from the basket,” West Allegheny coach Josh Bears said.
West Allegheny wanted to limit TJ's fast-break chances and play more of a half court game, and it did just that early.
The Indians led 12-5 with 2:01 left in the first quarter when things changed.
TJ turned missed shots into easy baskets. Scharbo, Zach Good and Fairman scored within 90 seconds of each other late in the first to get TJ within 13-12.
The Jaguars came out fast in the second quarter and scored nine straight to get their lead to 21-13 within a span of 90 seconds.
“We have been getting off to slow starts lately,” Scharbo said. “We are going to have to get over that. But I really wasn't too worried about it. I knew that we would come together as a team and get it done.”
TJ forced seven second-quarter turnovers and turned them into points.
The Jags led 36-18 at halftime, 49-30 after three quarters and 59-30 after scoring the first 10 points of the fourth quarter, allowing DeCicco to pull his starters.
“When they got to a double-digit lead, we kind of have to speed things up,” Bears said. “They are a tough team to come back on because they are so good in the open court.
“Anyone who hasn't seen them play and thinks this is a normal Thomas Jefferson basketball team, they are in for a rude awakening.”
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib .
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