Thomas Jefferson girls impress in playoff-opening win over Armstrong

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020 | 8:42 PM


A solid defensive effort got fifth-seeded Thomas Jefferson off to a good start in the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs Tuesday night.

Dalaney Ranallo led the way with a game-high 11 points and the Jaguars rolled past No. 12 Armstrong, 47-23, in a first-round matchup at Mt. Lebanon High School.

“We did our job defensively,” Thomas Jefferson head coach Lisa Fairman said. “We were prepared for what they were going to run, so I felt that we executed our gameplan defensively.

“I would have liked to have seen more defensive boards and a little bit more transition because I think that’s something we do very well, but for some reason, we didn’t get as many transition opportunities as I would have liked to have had.”

To complement their strong defensive showing, the Jaguars (17-6) also featured balance on the offensive side of ball.

Graci Fairman poured in 10 points, while Alyssa DeAngelo and Maddy Trainer each finished with nine. TJ’s fifth starter, Lydia Shaw, contributed in a big way on the defensive end and with five points.

“That’s huge. That’s what it really takes (to win games) because I don’t really think you can zone in on one or two particular players on our team and if you do, we’ve got two or three other kids that are capable of knocking down shots,” Lisa Fairman said. “When we do that, it’s hard to defend. That’s something we have to do consistently.”

In addition to forcing eight Armstrong turnovers, Thomas Jefferson used a strong effort from the free-throw line to build an 11-7 advantage after one quarter.

The duo of Trainer and Fairman combined to go 5 for 8 from the charity stripe, while DeAngelo, Shaw and Fairman each connected on buckets to account for TJ’s other points.

The River Hawks (12-10) were limited to four points from Shaelyn Clark and three from Jaylen Callipare in the first.

TJ, which finished the opening frame on a 9-2 run, continued its impressive scoring surge in the second, going on a 14-0 run to take a 25-7 lead with 4:51 to go.

Graci Fairman was the cornerstone of the spurt, scoring six of her points.

“Any time you’re in a playoff game, even when you have returning starters and kids with experience, there are still always a bit of nerves,” Lisa Fairman said. “You could kind of see that in the first four minutes (of the first quarter), and I think once we settled down, we picked things up and started playing the way we’re capable of playing.”

The River Hawks were limited to just five points in the second, as TJ held a commanding 30-12 edge at halftime.

TJ continued to roll in the third thanks in part to the play of Ranallo inside. The Old Dominion soccer recruit scored seven of her points in the quarter as the Jaguars outscored the River Hawks, 12-8. TJ started the frame on an 8-2 run and extended its lead to 42-20 after 24 minutes.

The fourth was a low-scoring quarter as eight combined points were scored. Ranallo hit a layup three minutes in and Armstrong picked up its first points on a Maci Lorigan 3-pointer with 1:01 left in the game.

TJ’s Alexa Dadig hit a 3-pointer to account for TJ’s only other bucket.

While the River Hawks failed to feature a player in double figures, Clark led the way with a team-high eight points.

With its first-round bout now in its rearview mirror, Thomas Jefferson turns its attention to fourth-seeded Oakland Catholic, a team the Jaguars lost to at the Cal U Holiday Tournament in December.

The teams will meet in the Class 5A quarterfinals Saturday at a site and time to be determined.

“That was early in the year and we were still trying to figure out who our fifth starter was, who the first couple off the bench were going to be, and we were giving a lot of opportunities to a lot of kids, trying to find our groove and our niche of what fits,” Fairman said. “I think we are definitely a stronger and better team since the last time we played them, but in turn, so are they. We have to go back, start watching film and start the process all over again.”

Watch the archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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