Thomas Jefferson basketball teams score signature wins
Saturday, January 18, 2020 | 12:19 AM
The Thomas Jefferson basketball teams know how to make a good first impression.
The boys and girls started the new decade with impressive victories, both on the road. The boys won a Section 2-5A game Jan. 3 at Montour, 58-54.
“We are starting to play a little better each day,” coach Dom DeCicco said. “We’ve only had our full team for about three weeks because of football winning states, so every practice is huge for us.
“Our section is so tough. Every night is going to be a grind. We just have to keep getting better and better if we want to get into the playoffs.”
A day earlier, the girls team won a Section 1-5A game at Lincoln Park, 76-63.
“We played well,” coach Lisa Fairman said. “We rebounded well, and our transition game was successful. We made adjustments defensively, and I give credit to Lincoln Park, who shot lights out.
“We are continuing to get better as a team and learning how to control the tempo and make good decisions. We’ve had multiple games where several players were in double digits, which makes us a threat from everywhere on the court. That will be key for us.”
The TJ boys started strong at Montour behind their 3-point shooting. The Jaguars made eight 3s in the first and led 34-19 at halftime. TJ withstood a furious fourth-quarter charge by the home team.
Senior swingmen Shane Stump and Isaac McNeil and junior guard Jake Pugh recorded 14, 13 and 10 points for the Jaguars. McNeil had three 3s.
“We have played in a lot of close games and have won a lot of those games,” McNeil said. “I feel that’s a testament to how much experience all of us have. We are still growing offensively, but our ability to be tough defensively is what sets us apart.”
Senior guard Noah Pierce and senior forward James Martinis added eight points apiece in the win.
“We started off really strong and shot well, giving us a big lead early on,” Martinis said. “However, we knew Montour’s a good team and plays hard, so we couldn’t take any possessions off. It was a big win for us beating them on their court.”
Stump and Pugh each had two 3s. Pierce and Ethan Dunsey, a 6-foot-5 junior forward, contributed one 3 apiece.
“Our goal from Day 1 was to win a WPIAL championship, and that hasn’t changed,” Pierce said. “We know to get there. We have to win a few big section games down the stretch and get a good playoff seed. If we can do that, we believe we have the talent and grit to make a run for the title.”
McNeil sees the Jaguars making a strong run into the playoffs.
“Plain and simple, we expect to win the section,” McNeil said. “Although winning the section is important to all of us and would be great for the community, our main goal is to win a WPIAL championship.
“One of our phrases is ‘Pack the Pete,’ and we mean that seriously. Anything less than that would be considered a disappointment with how much talent and athleticism we have.”
The girls, meanwhile, enjoyed a 34-30 halftime cushion at Lincoln Park before outscoring the Leopards, 42-33, in the second half.
TJ’s Alyssa DeAngelo, a 5-10 senior guard and Fairmont State recruit, racked up a game-high 29 points, including five 3-pointers.
“I feel like we went in and did what we had to do to get a win,” DeAngelo said. “We definitely started out strong with a 11-0 lead, and when (Lincoln Park) hit some 3s, we made adjustments. All that matters is the final on the scoreboard.”
Senior Dalaney Ranallo, a 5-10 forward and Old Dominion soccer recruit, recorded a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
“I thought our performance was solid,” Ranallo said. “We had a couple of defensive breakdowns that allowed them to go on a few big runs, but we did a good job getting back to our game and regaining the momentum. We had multiple players step up both offensively and defensively. Most importantly, we found a way to get the win.
“We have a tough schedule ahead of us, playing in what I believe is the toughest section in the WPIAL. Our expectations are the same as they’ve always been, to finish at the top of our section and compete for a WPIAL title.”
Junior guard/forward Maddy Trainer and sophomore guard Lydia Zoglmann scored 10 points apiece for TJ, with Zoglmann hitting a pair of 3-pointers.
TJ’s girls team advanced to the WPIAL finals and PIAA semifinal round last year, posting a 22-8 record. DeAngelo was a major force in the Jaguars’ playoff run in 2018-19.
“We continue to play with the same goal we had last year, which is to ultimately win a WPIAL championship,” DeAngelo said. “I know for all the seniors, we especially want to leave TJ on top, so that’s the expectation.”
Tags: Thomas Jefferson
More Basketball• What to watch for in WPIAL sports on Dec. 5, 2023: Lincoln Park gets early start on section play
• Imani Christian basketball moving to 6A in 2024, football also playing up
• Westmoreland County senior spotlight: Jeannette’s Isaiah Mallich
• A-K Valley Senior Spotlight: Cheswick Christian’s Grant Rochkind
• What to watch for in WPIAL sports for Dec. 4, 2023: Uniontown hosts Washington in nonsection showdown