Thomas Jefferson boys escape Blackhawk in overtime, reach semifinals
Third-seeded Thomas Jefferson survived Blackhawk's overtime challenge Friday night in the WPIAL Class AAA boys basketball playoffs to remain in contention for a trip to finals at Palumbo Center.
“Bottom line: We're playing in the semis,” Thomas Jefferson coach Dom DeCicco said.
Charlie Scharbo scored 21 points, and Thomas Jefferson outlasted Blackhawk, 72-67, at North Allegheny, setting up a matchup with second-seeded Central Valley in the semifinals Tuesday at a site to be determined.
The winner will play for the Class AAA championship Friday at Duquesne University's on-campus arena against the survivor of the other semifinal between top-seeded Chartiers Valley and Uniontown.
“We've been telling the kids all along that it's going to be a grind,” DeCicco said. “They saw that tonight. You've got to just keep grinding away.”
And Jaguars did. Thomas Jefferson (22-2) repeatedly rallied from deficits and finally emerged with a victory, its 15th in a row since a one-point loss to Elizabeth Forward on Dec. 30.
“This was a great character win for our guys,” DeCicco said. “They never lost the faith.”
Chase Winovich's rebound shot gave Thomas Jefferson a 66-64 lead to start the overtime period before Blackhawk held the ball until the 33-second mark and called timeout.
But the Cougars were unable to convert, and Winovich came up with a loose ball and fed Scharbo for a layup to give Thomas Jefferson a 68-64 lead.
Tyler Engle's long 3-pointer pulled Blackhawk within 68-67, but it was the Cougars' only points during the extra period.
Zack Good converted a pair of free throws with 13.2 seconds left as Thomas Jefferson took a 70-67 lead before Scharbo blocked Zack Duffy's 3-point attempt for Blackhawk.
Moments later, Scharbo sealed the victory with two free throws.
“I feel bad for our seniors,” Blackhawk coach Andy Hedrick said. “These kids played hard like this all year, even though we've given up size to just about everyone.”
Winovich added 14 points, while Good had 13 and Zach Talley scored 11 for Thomas Jefferson. Tyler Engle led Blackhawk with 25 points and Chase Migliore added 19.
Blackhawk (12-12), the No. 11 seed, led 13-12 after the first quarter and the teams were tied 26-26 at halftime, thanks to Eric Fairman's jumper at the buzzer.
Blackhawk jumped on Thomas Jefferson to start the second half, Engle's 3-pointer giving the Cougars a 38-33 advantage. The lead grew to 43-37 for Blackhawk on another 3-pointer by Chris Cassidy with 1:11 remaining in the third.
Thomas Jefferson drew within 45-43 at the close of the quarter, thanks to Good's three free throws after he was fouled by Cassidy with three-tenths of a second remaining.
Blackhawk led 57-54 when Talley, wrestling with a two-game shooting slump, drained a 3-pointer from the top of the circle with 1:26 left in regulation to pull Thomas Jefferson even.
Good hit another 3-pointer with 1:05 left, and Winovich followed with an uncontested layup, giving the Jaguars a 62-57 lead.
“Talley's 3 was huge,” DeCicco said. “He was struggling. I don't think he made one all night until then, and he's our best 3-point shooter.”
Blackhawk came back with a 7-0 run and appeared to be headed for a victory when Migliore scored on a driving layup with 10 seconds left to put the Jaguars ahead 64-62.
But Fairman's layup 5 seconds later tied the score again and forced overtime.