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Thomas Jefferson too much for Belle Vernon Area

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Belle Vernon's Jason Capco
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Belle Vernon's #13 Jason Capco gets rebound against Albert-Gallatin at Belle Vernon. Jim Ference | The Valley Independent

For three and a half quarters, the Belle Vernon Area boys’ basketball team was able to play up to Thomas Jefferson’s speed.

But with the game winding down, the Leopards’ shots wouldn’t fall and the Jaguars’ unrelenting pressure forced turnover after turnover and a series of fast breaks broke open the game as Thomas Jefferson ran away with a 79-62 Section 4-AAA victory.

“They’re a very good team,” BV Area coach Kyle DeGregorio said. “The first thing we needed to do tonight was match their toughness and I think we did that. The quality of our play did not give us an opportunity to win at the end. But I thought the kids competed hard and played with a toughness that I knew was there, but hadn’t seen yet.”

The Jaguars opened the game quickly and ended the first quarterwith an eight point advantage, 18-10, thanks primarily to nine points from Zach Talley.

Over the next two quarters the teams would exchange runs and heading into the final frame the Leps still trailed by eight, 58-50. Several times in the second half BVA seemed on the verge of tying the game, but each time the Jaguars would up the pressure and their lead would jump back up to double-digits.

Talley scored a team-high 27 points for Thomas Jefferson, with Charlie Scharbo (16) and Jason Horan (13) joined himhitting for double-digits.

DeGregorio insisted that the Jaguars’ up-tempo offenseand pressure defense didn’t present matchup problems, but it was a lack of execution that doomed the Leps.

“We want to play fast too,” the first-year coach said. “Let’s lace ‘em up tight, get behind each other and go play. We want to try and run with the best. We need to pass the ball better, we need to catch the ball better, we need to make a few more shots, defensively we need to get better.

“But slowly we’re getting to the point that we need to and we’re competing hard. That’s a skill you need to learn, too.”

Offensively, the Leps had continued success driving the lane for points and easily drawing fouls. Jason Capco was especially effective in this area, scoring a game-high 36 points, including a 16-for-20 performance from the foul line.

“I’m not concerned with the points,” DeGregorio said. “Jason Capco is a good player. My goal for Jason was to get him to understand how to play a complete game, and I thought he did a better job of that tonight. He rebounded the ball, defended well, he stirs our drink offensively with some nice passes to the guys, and he can absolutely score.”

But DeGregorio said Capco wasn’t alone out on the court.

“Don’t let it go unnoticed that number three, Phil Baldini, is out their busting his backside guarding the ball,” DeGregorio claimed. “I have Jimmy Yantko at 6-foot, going against 6-3 and 6-4 guys and a kid going to Michigan for football (Devin Hannon) and not taking a backseat to anybody. We play as a team and we take recognition as a team, so we will go from there.”

Baldini added 12 points on the strength of three three-pointers and Hannon contributed six.

While BVA played hard, their coach took no solace in the end result.

“There are no moral victories,” DeGregorio said. “We are here to compete for championships, not compete with TJ. We need to forget about tonight. Tomorrow we will work hard and get better and I’m excited to play Southmoreland here on Wednesday.”

Donnie Tasser is a freelance writer.

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