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Thomas Jefferson girls basketball team puts forth courageous effort in 2015-16 | TribLIVE.com
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Thomas Jefferson girls basketball team puts forth courageous effort in 2015-16

shrlexiezovko022516
randy jarosz | for the tribune-review
Lexie Zovko (34), a junior forward, drives to the hoop.
shrcaseygedman011416
randy jarosz | for the tribune-review
Casey Gedman (12), shown, at right, dribbling past a Keystone Oaks defender, is a sophomore guard on the Thomas Jefferson girls' basketball team.

The Thomas Jefferson girls’ basketball team proved to be highly competitive in 2015-16, despite ending up with a 4-18 overall record.

“I was so proud of these girls. These are all quality girls,” Phil Shar, Thomas Jefferson’s head coach, said. “After every game, I was so proud of them.

“These girls, on Tuesdays and Fridays, were exhausted; on Mondays and Thurdays, they gave 100 percent. They never stopped hustling.”

The undaunted Lady Jaguars lost 10 times this year by nine points or less, including four games by three points and twice by one point.

The 2015-16 TJ squad was filled mainly by young players, with nine of the 10 girls being either sophomores or freshmen.

“This season was a learning experience for our team. We were extremely young, with myself as the only junior, and no seniors,” Lexie Zovko, a 6-foot forward, said. “Each practice, we worked hard, improved dramatically and had a lot of fun. Despite our record not showing it, our team was extremely competitive.

“I think the experience we gained this year will translate into many more victories next year. I’m very optimistic about the future of the program.”

Zovko, the Lady Jaguars’ tallest player, led the team in rebounding and blocked shots in 2015-16.

“Lexie’s just a great young lady to coach. She had a great year,” Shar said. “The best part of her year was the second half. She improved as the year went on.”

Sophomore guard Marina Petruzzi propelled TJ offensively with a 17.8 ppg scoring average, attaining double figures in all 22 games.

She led the team in 3-point field goals with 31, and shot 65 percent from the foul line. She also registered 49 steals, grabbed 160 rebounds and blocked 15 shots.

“I didn’t think she’d be so good so fast, but she is. She is very athletic,” Shar said. “Because of her athletic ability, the sky’s the limit for her. And she’s just as good off the court as she is on the court.”

The 5-7 backcourt whiz netted 20-or-more points in a game nine times, including back-to-back 28-point performances versus Elizabeth Forward and Ringgold early in the season.

“I’m very proud of my team’s performance this year. We’ve never given up,” Petruzzi said. “I love to play with all of the girls. We work hard and are determined to keep getting better.

“I expect an awesome season next year, and can’t wait to see what we will do.”

Petruzzi and Zovko were joined in the starting lineup by sophomore guard Casey Gedman, freshman guard Shayla Williams and sophomore forward Maura Siess, who sat out some games because of an injury.

“Casey had a nice year at point guard,” Shar said. “She came a long way.”

Julia Shearn, a freshman guard and leading reserve, filled in as a starter when Siess was out.

“Julia played a lot of minutes,” Shar said. “She gave us quality minutes off the bench.”

Four freshmen — guards Mackenzie Ward and Adara Getsy, and forwards Alanna Lynch and Madison McGrew — rounded out the 2015-16 squad.

The Lady Jaguars, who finished 2-10 in section play, ended a late-season losing skid with a 50-45 section win against Brownsville.

“I’m kind of excited not only for next year but for the next couple of years,” Shar said. “I sort of can’t wait for next season.”

Ray Fisher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or rfisher@tribweb.com.

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