South Fayette puts on clinic in decisive win over Thomas Jefferson

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Tuesday, January 23, 2024 | 11:27 PM


South Fayette and Thomas Jefferson have big section games looming later this week that will determine first place in their respective Class 5A sections.

In a nonsection tune-up Tuesday before those section showdowns, one team brought its A game while the other was a no-show.

South Fayette won its fifth straight game by pounding host Thomas Jefferson, 71-56.

This cat fight turned into a mauling as the Lions beat the Jaguars in all aspects of the game.

“They beat us in every phase of the game,” Thomas Jefferson coach Dom DeCicco said. “They were more physical, they defended fantastic, they wanted it more than us, and they deserved to beat our butts like they did.”

Down early, South Fayette went on a 10-0 run in the first quarter to take a lead it did not relinquish.

The Lions were sparked early and often by the aggressive play of senior Michael Plasko, who scored 10 of his game-high 30 points in the opening quarter.

“Michael was Michael,” South Fayette coach Dave Mislan said. “He keeps coming at you and putting pressure on your defense. When he’s making 3s, then he is really dangerous.”

While the Lions’ big gun was firing on all cylinders, the Jaguars’ all-time leading scorer was held in check.

TJ senior Evan Berger did a great job all night on defense and on the glass, but he was limited offensively by South Fayette junior Dylan Head.

“The biggest story of the night was the job Dylan Head did on Berger,” Mislan said. “Berger is a legit college player and Head kept him off balance and uncomfortable all night.”

Berger had seven assists, four rebounds, six steals and two blocks, but scored only 13 points with eight of those coming in the final quarter when the game was out of reach for Thomas Jefferson.

Another key to the team’s sixth win in its last seven games was the play of the South Fayette bench.

The Lions’ bench pumped in 25 points with 15 of those points coming from junior Gavin Orosz.

“The bench was great,” Mislan said. “Orosz came off the bench because this was his first game back from an ankle injury, so he has been out the last few games.”

Midway through the third quarter, South Fayette led 42-29 before Nick Trklja and Brody Evans hit back-to-back 3-pointers for Thomas Jefferson to cut the lead to seven points, but the Lions were not fazed and outscored the Jaguars the rest of the quarter, 18-7.

South Fayette improves to 10-6 overall and will host Moon on Thursday in a battle for first place in Section 4-5A. The Tigers are 5-0 atop the section while the Lions are second with a 4-1 section record.

“This was a great win for team confidence before Moon, and we know the challenges they present,” Mislan said. “We will have to be really strong defensively and on the boards to give ourselves a chance.”

The loss ends an eight-game winning streak for Thomas Jefferson, which falls to 12-3. The Jaguars are in first place in Section 1-5A with a 5-0 record and will visit second-place Peters Township on Friday. The Indians are 4-1 in section play.

“I really believe our guys were feeling their oats because they had won eight or nine in a row and sometimes you need to get knocked off that pedestal,” DeCicco said. “They’re going to hate me (Wednesday), but then we’ll prepare for Peters Township on Thursday. I’m hoping this is the best thing that could happen to us.”

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