WESTTOWN >> Stopping Maggie O’Hare was nearly an impossible task.
O’Hare couldn’t miss once her first field goal went in late in the first quarter. From that point, she carried West Chester Rustin on her back with 23 points in the ensuing 16 minutes to follow, as the fifth-seeded Golden Knights beat No. 12 Academy Park, 58-48, in a District 1 Class 5A first round game Tuesday night.
“We were just getting open (throughout the night),” O’Hare said of her performance. “We took some really good shots, but I just really wanted to win this one.”
O’Hare finished with a career-high 29 points to lead Rustin into the quarterfinals Friday night at No. 4 Radnor.
With Rustin clinging to a three-point lead at halftime, O’Hare put the Golden Knights on her back, scoring 15 of Rustin’s 23 third-quarter points to take command of the game.
Academy Park decided to breakup O’hare in the post by establishing a full-court press in the second half. The Golden Knights remained composed as the fast-break offense fits into their style of play.
“It worked well for us because we had the lead,” O’Hare said. “We were pumped to have that second-half lead and rode that all the way to the end.”
O’Hare was the catalyst of Rustin’s success against the press, getting her one-on-one matchup in the post and going to the foul line. She went 5-for-6 in the third quarter and 4for-4 from the free throw line.
Academy Park’s Mahya Woodton went toe-to-toe with O’Hare in the first half, with her 12 points pacing the way for the Knights. Rustin played a role in keeping the ball out of her hands in the third quarter as she was held to just one point.
Woodton led Academy Park with 18 points.
O’Hare essentially sealed Rustin’s fate with a three-pointer and a buzzer-beating layup in the final seconds of the third quarter to give Rustin a 47-36 lead.
Dakiya Daniels helped seal the victory by going 4-fotr-7 from the line in the fourth quarter and collecting three steals. She finished with 10 points.
The playoff victory was Rustin’s first in two years and first in the new 5A class. Rustin will face No. 5 Radnor, a 53-28 winner over No. 13 Interboro, on Friday. “It feels great. I’m so excited for us to keep going,” O’Hare said. “We’re just going to take this win, go game-by-game, and take it one game at a time.”