TJ girls basketball revels in historic season

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Friday, March 29, 2019 | 8:11 PM


March Madness for Thomas Jefferson meant a trip to the WPIAL girls basketball finals and historic run to the PIAA semifinals. It was the first time the team went that deep into the state playoffs.

The Jaguars finished 22-8 overall, which included 3-1 records in the WPIAL and PIAA tournaments.

“I’m so proud of our team this year and all the wonderful memories we will remember forever,” said TJ’s first-year coach Lisa Fairman, who coached seven seasons at Belle Vernon. “We started out as a team and finished as a family. We never gave up and left everything we had on the court.

We had an incredible year and we couldn’t have done it without the support of the school and the community. This is the beginning of more to come for our program.”

The TJ girls ended the regular season on a five-game winning streak and seven wins in their last eight games. They extended the streak to eight consecutive victories with decisive 79-36, 79-52 and 68-55 wins against Plum, Gateway and Oakland Catholic in the WPIAL playoffs.

The chief nemesis for the TJ proved to be section rival Chartiers Valley, which defeated the Jaguars twice in January, in the WPIAL championship game and in the PIAA semifinals.

Thomas Jefferson won its first three games in the state playoffs, defeating Trinity, 50-44; Mount Saint Joseph, 55-41; and Palmyra, 48-39.

Senior leadership was provided at TJ by guards Jenna Clark, Shaylor Williams and Julia Shearn.

Clark will continue to play at Yale. She led the Jaguars in scoring (20.6 ppg), steals (111) and assists (182) as an energetic 5-foot-7 point guard. She averaged 6 assists and 3.7 steals and grabbed 102 rebounds.

“Jenna is an amazing point guard and has been a role model for all young basketball players,” said Fairman, a Thomas Jefferson graduate. “It has been a privilege and an honor to have coached Jenna. I believe her best is yet to come at Yale as she will continue to work hard and do more great things.”

Clark averaged 20.8 points during the regular season and 20.1 in the playoffs.

“This season was something I’ll never forget, and I am just so proud of my team,” Clark said. “We went through a lot. We were never seen as a top team, but we proved everyone wrong. We had some adversity and came through every challenge stronger and ended the year as a family.

“The support we received from the community was amazing and we appreciated every second of it. Our playoff run was a great way to end my career as a Jaguar. I am so thankful to have played in front of the best fans and family out there.

Williams plans to attend Slippery Rock, where she will major in biology.

“I couldn’t be more proud of my team,” Williams said. “We made history for our school and weren’t even ranked in the top five before this season. Making it to the WPIAL championship game and Final Four in the state proved everyone wrong.

We played our hearts out every game and made so many memories. This was a season to remember, and I’m glad that’s how I ended my career. The way we battled every game and handled adversity really showed how much we deserved to be where we got. I’ll never forget any part of this amazing season, and I hope we started something that will continue for a long time for this program.

Fairman was assisted by Skyler Meier, Shaylor’s older sister, and Ed Manfredi.

“My career at TJ wasn’t easy. I had three different (head) coaches, and I was nervous going into my senior year wondering who would be my last coach. I couldn’t be happier or more thankful that coach Fairman was able to coach me my last year and lead us to all of this success. Having her, Ed and my sister, who has been there for three years, really made my senior year the best of them all. I couldn’t imagine any better way for it to end.

Shearn plans to attend Penn State, earn a master’s degree and eventually become a physician’s assistant.

Clark and Williams were joined in the starting lineup this season by a trio of juniors: guard Alyssa DeAngelo and forwards Dalaney Ranallo and Molly Wagner. DeAngelo was the team’s second-leading scorer (14.7). She averaged 14 points during the regular season and 16.5 in the playoffs.

DeAngelo connected for a team-high 74 shots from 3-point range on a team-high 185 attempts. She also blocked 47 shots.

On the season, DeAngelo hit on 53 percent of her 2-point shots, 40 percent of her treys and 78 percent from the foul line. In the playoffs, she connected on 27 of 47 field goals (57 percent), 21 of 35 triples (60 percent) and 16 of 19 free throws (84 percent).

Ranallo and Wagner were the team’s leading frontcourt players. Ranallo averaged 8.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.2 steals and led the team in blocked shots (53).

The Jaguars reserves consisted of Shearn, freshman PG Graci Fairman, junior G/F Lydia Shaw, junior G Deanna Bennett, sophomore G/F Maddy Trainor, junior Allison Weidmann (F) and freshman Lydia Zoglmann (G).

Graci Fairman, known for her defensive prowess, drew a team-high 10 charges.

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