Jaguars defense makes difference



So much for the notion that when evenly matched teams play twice in one season, it usually is difficult for one to beat the other both times.

Playing on the road Friday night with the Class AAA Section 4 title at stake, Thomas Jefferson took control early and notched a 57-38 victory against West Mifflin.

It was the first time since the 2007-08 season the Jaguars (16-6, 12-0) have swept the Titans (15-5, 10-2) in the regular season.

Thomas Jefferson 57, West Mifflin 38

Thomas Jefferson takes on West Mifflin in Friday night action. (video by Matt Freed; 2/8/2013)

The workman-like approach that Thomas Jefferson has utilized all season helped the Jaguars earn the decisive win.

"It's almost like we outwork people," Thomas Jefferson coach Dom DeCicco said. "There's nothing fancy, we're not going to dunk on anybody, but we pride ourselves on defense.

"Our defense creates a lot of offense. We don't wow people, we just win."

Friday night, Thomas Jefferson limited a West Mifflin offense that entered the game averaging 56.3 points to 38 on 14-of-35 shooting. In its past four games, Thomas Jefferson has held opponents to 46.3 points per game.

The stingy defense largely is predicated on forcing turnovers and the Jaguars did that 23 times against the Titans, many of them leading to points at the other end.

"We said all week the key to this game is who can dictate the pace and what style is played," DeCicco said. "If we can speed them up, we felt like we had a legit chance."

Guard Joe Carroll led all scorers with 19 points and forward Jason Horan pitched in 11.

Behind Carroll's 10 points, the Jaguars led, 17-10, after the first quarter, but failed to make a field goal for the first 4:29 of the second. The Titans, however, failed to capitalize on the dry spell in which Carroll was on the bench with two early fouls. In fact, West Mifflin got no closer than four points in that span.

In the final 31/2 minutes of the first half, Thomas Jefferson scored 10 points to build the Jaguars' lead to 28-17 at halftime.

Thomas Jefferson only extended that lead in the second half.

"We worked hard, and this was a goal of ours -- we knew if we won this game, we'd win the section outright and we didn't want to share it with them," Carroll said. "It was our goal, and we wanted to accomplish it."

The loss was the second in a row for West Mifflin, which was upset earlier in the week by Allderdice. Ryan Maha scored a team-high 14 points for the Titans.

While the Jaguars own the section title, both teams have reached the WPIAL playoffs. For coach Lance Maha's Titans, the loss serves as a reminder that they still have work to do if they want to make a postseason run.

"You get what you deserve," Maha said. "If they beat you twice, they beat you on their floor and they beat you by 19 on your floor, they're a better team. Hat's off to them."

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Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com and Twitter: @craig_a_meyer. First Published February 9, 2013 5:00 AM


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