Central Valley outlasts Thomas Jefferson to reach WPIAL Class AAA finals
Central Valley wasn't catching any breaks.
Or that is at least how coach Brandon Ambrose viewed Tuesday's Class AAA semifinal game against Thomas Jefferson.
But when Central Valley needed the breaks the most, they came in droves — some with help from Thomas Jefferson.
Eric Fairman missed an uncontested layup with two minutes left and his team up six points, and Chase Winovich took an ill-advised, albeit wide-open, 10-foot jumper moments later that gave Central Valley all it needed.
Central Valley scored eight points in a span of 50 seconds and withstood a last-second Charlie Scharbo runner that sent the game into overtime to win, 68-59, at Chartiers Valley and advance to the school's first championship game.
The Warriors face Chartiers Valley (24-1) at Palumbo Center on Friday.
“This is what high school basketball is about,” Ambrose said. “We didn't shoot it well. We didn't handle it all too well, but we found a way. I shook my head most of the game because we couldn't catch a break. I never felt like we were getting right bounces, then all of a sudden the last minute we got them all.”
The Warriors outscored Thomas Jefferson, 15-6, in overtime.
Thomas Jefferson coach Dom DeCicco saw the ending of the game that featured 26 ties or lead changes in a different light.
“You look back, and that layup hurt,” DeCicco said of Fairman's miss. “We just made some bad decisions. Our kids played well and prepared well. It is frustrating because I think we are better than them.”
Central Valley (21-3) got 20 points and 12 rebounds from 6-foot-8 center Matt Kline, while John George made five 3-pointers for 15 points. Mike Simms added 14.
Thomas Jefferson (22-3), which had its 15-game winning streak snapped, got 25 points from Zach Talley and 11 from Fairman. Winovich and Talley fouled out. Winovich and leading scorer Scharbo sat out most of the first half because of foul trouble. They combined for only three first-half shots.
“We had our opportunities,” DeCicco said. “Down the stretch, we wanted layups, but we didn't want that shot (from Winovich).”
Thomas Jefferson had opportunities to win it in overtime. The Jaguars took a 56-53 lead when Zach Good hit a 3-pointers early in the extra frame. After that, it was all Central Valley.
Thomas Jefferson missed its final nine shots in overtime along with all three of its free throws.
“Our guys never stopped battling and they had a desire to win,” Ambrose said. “They want to win as bad as any team I have ever been around. You keep playing hard and good things will happen.”
Central Valley can attest to that now.