Mason helps lift Thomas Jefferson boys basketball team into playoff contention
C.J. Mason has quietly established himself as one of the top backcourt players in Section 4-AAA.
The 5-foot-10 senior guard has propelled the Thomas Jefferson boys’ basketball team into WPIAL playoff contention.
“C.J. has a great basketball IQ,” Dom DeCicco, the Jaguars’ head coach, said. “He has been a quiet leader all year long. He is not a rah-rah guy, he leads by example.”
The Jaguars won five of six games heading into this week’s schedule to climb to 7-3 in the section and 9-8 overall.
“It’s always a process, but I think the kids are buying into their roles. They are an unselfish group,” DeCicco said. “We are not a big team, and to be honest, we still have not come close to reaching what I think is our potential.
“Really, we have accomplished nothing yet. We have to play our best every night to give us a chance to win.”
Mason sparked the squad offensively during its recent run by averaging close to 17 ppg, including 24- and 20-point performances last week against Uniontown and Laurel Highlands.
Mason was averaging a team-leading 14.8 ppg through 17 games, reaching double digits 14 times. He also led the Jaguars in 3-point field goals with 48.
“We got off to a little bit of a slow start this year with our football team winning the WPIAL (Class AAA) championship,” Mason said. “It took some time to get everybody back in the loop. Now, we are starting to play some really good basketball and with that being said, there are still many things we can improve on. Our team is focused on making the playoffs and winning our section. Every game we have left is going to be tough.”
Mason sparked TJ to last week’s 69-60 section win at home against Laurel Highlands with a 15-point explosion in the game’s second half.
Justin Farrell, a junior guard/forward, chipped in with 16 points for the Jaguars.
Junior guard Nick Freiwald added 12 points on four treys, while Ryan Cusick, a junior guard, and Steve Dunlap, a senior forward, combined for 17 points.
The home team connected for nine triples in the game.
Against Uniontown, Mason was complemented by Freiwald, with 16 points, and Dunlap, with 10 points.
“C.J. made sure we didn’t lose (against the Red Raiders),” DeCicco said, “and Steve Dunlap had two of the biggest rebounds of the year.
“Different guys have stepped up for us all year. Nick Friewald has hit big shots in several games. I really believe that stems from all his playing time as a sophomore. You can see his confidence growing.”
Mason, who has hit at least once from 3-point range in all 17 games heading into this week, agreed with his coach.
“Everybody on our team is stepping up,” Mason said. “Cusick and Freiwald are shooting extremely well and have made clutch plays all year. Farrell, Dunlap and (Zane) Zandier have given us the inside presence that we need.
“(Tyler) Thompson and (Tommy) Campbell have been huge coming off the bench and giving us a spark.”
Mason opened the 2015-16 season with a bang, netting 23 points in a 68-61 nonsection win against South Park.
He has scored 20 or more points five times.
Ray Fisher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.