Central Valley battles past TJ

Mark Kaboly
| Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 10:39 p.m.

And Thomas Jefferson thought the way it lost to Central Valley in the WPIAL semifinals two weeks ago was a difficult one to take?

Tuesday's 61-51 loss to Central Valley in the second round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs might have surpassed it.

Thomas Jefferson, which collapsed in the final 90 seconds in its previous meeting with the Warriors, suffered another late letdown Tuesday at Chartiers Valley.

Thomas Jefferson overcame the third-quarter ejection of center Chase Winovich to turn a six-point deficit into a four-point lead and later a seven-point advantage before collapsing down the stretch.

Central Valley outscored Thomas Jefferson, 21-4, over the final 4:17 to advance to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs in a game that featured 22 ties or lead changes.

“It was the right time to do it up, right,” Central Valley coach Brandon Ambrose said about the final four minutes. “They are a tough team and a hard team to play against, but our kids are very calm under pressure. I haven't been around that many teams that are calm under pressure.”

Central Valley (24-3) will play Farrell on Friday in the quarterfinals at a site and time to be determined. Thomas Jefferson's season ends with a school-record 23 wins but two heartbreaking defeats to Central Valley.

“The kids just battled and battled,” Thomas Jefferson coach Dom DeCicco said. “To their credit, they close games out very well and they did it to us once again.”

Central Valley got 14 points each from Tony Gates and Mike Sims. Matt Kline added 11 and John George 10. Thomas Jefferson (23-4) got 15 points from Zach Talley, 11 from Zack Good and 10 from Charlie Scharbo.

“It was a tough one, but I am proud of these kids,” DeCicco said. “They gave it their all.”

The game turned midway through the third quarter with Central Valley leading 31-30. Winovich and Gates were fighting for a rebound when Winovich was called for a foul. Winovich's hands contacted Gates' face, drawing a technical foul and an ejection.

“I don't know what happened because when I grabbed the rebound I just closed my eyes,” Gates said.

DeCicco said he didn't see the incident.

After the technical and a 3-pointer by Sims to make it 36-30, TJ grabbed the momentum back and went on a 10-0 run to take a 40-36 lead.

“That was crazy because it caught us a little off guard,” Ambrose said. “With Chase out of the game, they spaced us out and attacked our big guy. They created some matchup problems.”

The Jaguars were able to get their lead to 47-40 with 4:17 left, but DeCicco said “I knew we were on borrowed time.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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