Thomas Jefferson girls made program history by reaching title game

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Friday, March 8, 2019 | 7:33 PM


The Thomas Jefferson and Chartiers Valley basketball teams clashed March 2 in the WPIAL Class 5A championship game at Pitt’s Peterson Events Center.

It wasn’t the first time TJ senior guard Shaylor Williams stepped onto the court at The Pete.

“When I played AAU in sixth grade for the Bruins, we practiced at the Petersen Events Center most of the time,” Williams said, “and I was always intimidated but thought of how awesome it would be to play a game on that court.”

The Jaguars (19-7) fell to the top-seeded and undefeated Colts (25-0) by a 64-48 score.

“I’m beyond excited and proud of my team for advancing to the finals,” Williams said. “We prepared and worked so hard for this.

“TJ girls basketball has not been to the (WPIAL finals) since 1980. It is pretty cool to be the first team in about 39 years to go the championship.”

TJ’s junior forward, Molly Wagner, is one of the WPIAL’s top female sprinters. She said the Jaguars were ready and well-tuned for the championship game.

“My thoughts going into the game were very positive,” Wagner said. “Coach (Lisa) Fairman prepared us for the game. We studied films, going over and over plays. We were confident, playing well together as a team, and we have the support from our parents, family, school and the community.

“Win, lose or draw, we have had an incredible season filled with so many amazing memories. Going to The Pete is a dream come true for not only us but for the school and our community.”

Only one other girls basketball team at TJ has advanced to the WPIAL finals, back in 1980 when the Jaguars dropped a 53-39 decision to Shaler in the WPIAL Class AAA finals.

Junior guard Alyssa DeAngelo appreciates the history behind this year’s appearance by TJ in the WPIAL championship game.

“Advancing to play in the championship is a feeling like no other,” said DeAngelo, who netted 17 points against CV. “As a girls basketball program, we haven’t made it this far in almost 40 years, so this is huge.

“On top of that, we’re clearly a football school, so being able to bring the community together in a different sport is really special for us.”

Junior forward Dalaney Ranallo, a soccer standout who is the Jaguars’ tallest starter at 5-foot-11, tangled with CV center Gabby Legister, a 6-2 senior and Kennesaw State recruit, for most of the game before fouling out with 2:53 to go.

“I was super pumped about advancing to the championship game,” Ranallo said. “We have worked really hard day in and day out to get where we are. It’s awesome to have the opportunity to play at The Pete, considering not all athletes have this opportunity in their high school career.”

For TJ senior guard Jenna Clark, a Yale recruit, it proved to be a bloodstained endeavor at the WPIAL finals.

Clark, who finished with a game-high 19 points, suffered both a bloody knee and nose against the Colts.

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