Petruzzi helps lead Thomas Jefferson girls to tournament title, 8-1 start
There haven’t been many players to achieve the feat in the history of the Thomas Jefferson girls basketball program.
Prior to the 2017-18 season, only four had accomplished it — Karri Miller, Kelly Miller, Nikki Presto and Alexis Yanief.
Add senior Marina Petruzzi to that exclusive club.
Petruzzi, a tenacious 5-foot-7 guard, eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in career scoring Thursday against Keystone Oaks in the Golden Eagles’ annual holiday tournament.
The fourth-year varsity starter attained the milestone on a 3-point shot at the 6:19 mark of the fourth quarter.
Petruzzi scored 136 points as a freshman, 392 as a sophomore, 331 as a senior, and 144 so far as a senior to give her 1,003 points in her stellar career.
“Honestly, reaching 1,000 points is really indescribable,” said Petruzzi, who plans to continue her basketball career at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. “I mean it’s every athlete’s goal to reach a huge milestone, and I just feel overwhelmed with happiness.”
Petruzzi went into halftime against KO with 993 career points, needing seven to reach the feat.
“Yeah, we were counting down the points,” she said. “This meant a lot to me and my family, and my team was super excited for me. Hitting that 3, it was like a wave of relief and success.”
Petruzzi finished with 17 points in the Jaguars’ 80-52 win against the Golden Eagles in the tournament’s championship game.
She also netted 19 points in leading TJ to a 56-45 victory against Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the first round.
“Marina has worked very hard to get to this level and has become a proven blue-chip high school player,” coach George Vlassich said. “It isn’t surprising that Marina reached the 1,000-point mark. She is a creator who can score from long range, mid-range, on pull-up jump shots and with dribble penetration. She is our second-leading rebounder, and a lockdown defender.”
Petruzzi was named MVP of the tournament for the second consecutive year as the Jaguars have won two straight KO holiday tournament titles. TJ edged the host team 54-51 in overtime in last year’s championship game behind Petruzzi’s 20-point performance.
Petruzzi netted 32 total points in last year’s holiday event, and was an all-section selection last season, averaging 13.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.4 assists
She is averaging 16 points and 6.8 rebounds, along with 2.3 steals and 1.7 assists in 2017-18. In college, she plans to either major in biology or go on a pre-med track.
Two other TJ players, 5-9 sophomore guard/forward Alyssa DeAngelo and 5-6 junior point guard Jenna Clark, were selected to the all-tournament team with 30 and 29 two-day point totals.
“Alyssa is a solid sophomore, a pure shooter who plays like a senior and may be our best defender,” Vlassich said. “She often plays against our opponent’s best player.
“Jenna is a Division I point guard who is very tough to contain.”
DeAngelo and Clark racked up 17 and 16 points, respectively, against Keystone Oaks.
The Jaguars connected 10 times from 3-point range in the championship game, led by DeAngelo and junior guard Shaylor Williams with three apiece. Petruzzi (two), Clark and senior guard/forward Becca Mascaro accounted for four treys between them.
“Becca is a blue-collar worker with a white-collar mentality,” Vlassich said, “and she has 3-point range. She is our leading rebounder who has to play our opponent’s big kid, who often is 6 feet or taller.”
Williams ended up with 11 points against KO; Mascaro chipped in with nine. Maura Siess, a senior guard/forward, and Molly Wagner, a sophomore guard, combined for 10 points.
Thomas Jefferson improved to 8-1 overall with its eighth consecutive victory.
After losing to Beaver in their season opener, the Jaguars have reeled off wins against Hempfield, South Park, Mt. Pleasant, Steel Valley, Upper St. Clair, Gateway, OLSH and Keystone Oaks.
The TJ girls, ranked No. 4 in Class 5A by the Tribune-Review, are 1-0 in Section 2 thanks to their recent 37-33 victory at Gateway. Keystone Oaks (6-2) is ranked No. 3 in Class 4A.
“The team has been playing awesome so far,” Petruzzi said. “We are playing so well together, and hitting tough shots when we need to.
“This was the second year we’ve won the Keystone Oaks tournament, so we had to be tough going in. The (championship) win will hopefully give us a strong boost for section play.”
TJ has racked up a 62.1 ppg scoring average, while allowing 44.2 ppg. The Jaguars are the highest-scoring team in 5A, and third-highest in the WPIAL behind only West Greene (A) and East Allegheny (3A).
“We have shot the ball very well this year and our scoring is spread around,” Vlassich said. “We are a tough matchup for opposing teams who might ask, ‘who do we stop?’
“Our section will be tough with Oakland Catholic the favorite, and a very tough Gateway team that has a Division I point guard and a 6-2 center. With some luck, we hope to finish first or second in the section.”
Clark leads the team in scoring, with a 16.5 ppg average, along with assists (5.7 per game) and steals (2.7 per game).
Clark and Petruzzi are tied for the team lead in 3-point field goals with 14 apiece, followed by DeAngelo (12) and Williams (10). DeAngelo is averaging 10 ppg.
Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.