RADNOR >> It started with a miss and ended with a miss.
Between buzzers Friday night, fifth-seeded West Chester Rustin made just enough shots to defeat fourth-seeded Radnor, 43-37, and clinch a berth in the PIAA Class 5A tournament.
It was a rematch of the District 1 battle waged last year.
“We lost in the second round to them so this is great for us to come back and win,” said Rustin junior Erin Gallagher, who scored a game-high 17 points. “We’re very excited. We can’t wait to get back to the gym and work hard and win some more games.”
The Golden Knights (16-9) oppose Springfield — which routed Penn Wood — in the District 1 semifinals next Tuesday at Harriton High.
The Raiders (17-7) still can secure a state playoff berth with a victory over Penn Wood, as six berths are available. That’s easier said than done for a squad that looked like it hit the wall.
“From the first minute to the last minute, we missed a lot of shots in the paint,” Radnor coach Mark Jordan said. “You’ve got to make those shots to win a playoff game. If we want to go to our third state playoff in four years we’ve got to win Tuesday night. We’re still alive. But we’ve got to play better. If we play that way against Penn Wood we’re going to lose that game, too. We’ll see what we’ve got left in the tank.”
Nicole Massimino, whom Jordan said wasn’t feeling well, led the Raiders with 12 points. She scored six points to give her teammates an 11-9 lead entering the second quarter.
The flip side was the Raiders began missing a slew of layups and follow shots. Lost in defeat was a stellar effort by Ellie Mueller, who contributed eight points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Rustin led by a deuce at the half, by three after three quarters and by eight in the final frame.
“Radnor is a great team,” Gallagher said. “They played a heck of a game. We really battled to win this one. I think we just started hitting shots, getting some momentum. And then it was us just wanting to play some hard defense. We really wanted it. Everyone worked hard.”
The Raiders are in the one-and-done portion of the districts. If Jordan shows his players the videotape of this loss, they might get nauseated by all of the missed shots. By the team’s count they missed 40 shots. And that doesn’t include six missed free throws.
“Usually we shoot about 35 percent, which isn’t great but 28 percent is a little low for us,” Jordan said. “Credit Rustin, they didn’t get rattled by our press. We didn’t get a lot of easy run-outs and when we did, we didn’t finish it. We missed shots we normally make and Rustin made enough jump shots to win. I think if we play them 10 times we each win five games. But we had one chance to play and they played better, and they won. If you play well, you’re going to win.”