Evan Berger becomes Thomas Jefferson’s all-time leading scorer in key win over Bethel Park

Saturday, January 13, 2024 | 12:16 AM

Thomas Jefferson senior Evan Berger made history Friday when he became the all-time leading scorer in school history in boys or girls basketball.

His teammates now also know the feeling of being alone at the top.

TJ survived foul trouble, a poor night of shooting and a rebound disadvantage against host Bethel Park to win, 72-60.

The victory snaps a tie for first place between the Jaguars and Black Hawks, who were both 3-0 coming into the battle for first place in Section 1-5A.

Berger needed 21 points coming into the game to tie 1989 Thomas Jefferson graduate Karri Miller Lockhart with 1,357 career points.

With less than a minute remaining, Berger hit a free throw that gave him his record 1,358th point. He ended up scoring a game-high 22.

“I’m always a win-first type of guy.” Berger said when asked if the record was on his mind during the game. “It doesn’t matter what I have to do, I’ll do it to take a win. If I have to play defense against their best player instead of scoring points, I’ll do it. It’s all about the win.”

When Berger connected on the record-breaking free throw, he was aware of the situation.

“I definitely knew what happened when everyone was saying congratulations,” Berger said. “I was just happy we came out here and got the win.”

Thomas Jefferson coach Dom DeCicco said being a prolific scoring in his career in black and gold is just part of the story when it comes to Berger.

“He does a lot of stuff,” DeCicco said. “I know there are guys that average a lot more points than him, but if this was baseball, he’d be a five-tool player. He’s a great defender, he rebounds, and he makes everybody better on our team.”

The first half was highlighted by runs.

Bethel Park scored the final nine points of the first quarter to lead after one, 18-15.

Thomas Jefferson countered with a 7-0 run to start the second quarter to take the lead by five.

The second quarter ended with the Black Hawks cutting the Jaguars lead to one, 28-27.

Both teams struggled from the field with TJ missing a lot of open looks behind the arc and Bethel Park missing opportunities at close range with missed tips and rebounds after dominating the offensive glass in the first half.

“We knew we were going to have trouble rebounding because they’re a big team,” DeCicco said. “I thought we were not very good in the first half rebounding the ball, but I thought we were much better in the second half.”

The Jaguars’ depth was tested when they got into foul trouble. Two starters ended up fouling out as seniors Sean Sullivan and Brody Evans became spectators early in the fourth quarter.

However, Berger, senior Noah Prosser, who finished with 18 points, and sophomore Nick Trklja with 16 points led the way on offense while junior Noah Kaszer and freshman Kane Eggerton came up big off the TJ bench.

Shawn Davis led Bethel Park (3-1, 8-5) with 21 points while senior Nick Brown came back from an earlier injury and finished with 11 points.

The loss snapped the Black Hawks’ six-game winning streak.

Thomas Jefferson (4-0, 10-2) has now won six games in a row.

“Getting a road win against a quality team like Bethel is huge for us,” DeCicco said. “I didn’t think we played particularly well and we didn’t shoot it well, but I really liked our toughness.”

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