WESTTOWN >> In a lot ways, the West Chester Rustin and Wissahickon boys’ basketball teams were a mirror-image of the other: both like to press after makes, each are deliberate on offense and unafraid to fire from beyond arc.
But on Friday in a District 1 Class 5A consolation clash, the host Golden Knights didn’t have an answer for Chaz Owens, who poured in a career-high 30 points for the Trojans, and that was the difference in a come-from-behind 54-50 victory. In the battle for the seventh and final berth from the district into the upcoming PIAA Tournament, Wissahickon extended its season while ending Rustin’s.
“We’ve been looking forward all season to moving on to states, so this is big for us,” said Owens, a junior.
“I can’t say enough about what this team just did,” added Trojans’ head coach Kyle Wilson. “It was so impressive.”
There was, however, a very good reason why the Knights had trouble defending Owens: 6-foot-4 Tajir Asparagus ran into all kinds of foul trouble. The sophomore played a total of just one minute and 26 seconds of the second half, and it wasn’t coincidental that Owens scored 18 in the second half, including 10 after Asparagus fouled out.
“It was big,” acknowledged Rustin head coach Keith Cochran. “Tajir is one of our better defenders and we didn’t have him for much of the game. Because of that (Wissahickon) ran exactly what they wanted for (Owens) and he finished.”
The 11th seeded Trojans improve to 15-11 overall, and they did it even though leading scorer Shane Ford was held to four points.
“Shane had a miserable game, but that’s been our modus operandi all season,” Wilson explained. “Scoring has never really been an issue. All year it’s been a different guy who’s stepped up and does something. I tell our guys, if we defend well, the points will come.”
Sophomore Chris McMahon hit four from 3-point range and paced the fifth-seeded Knights (18-10 overall) with 16 points.
“It’s funny because I watch what (Rustin) does and it’s very similar to us,” Wilson said.
“I knew after seeing (Wissahickon) on tape that it was going to come down to who executed, and they got us a few too many times in the fourth quarter,” Cochran added.
After being whistled for his fourth foul early in the third period, Asparagus sat down until the midway point of the fourth quarter, but he lasted just 17 seconds before fouling out. Moments later Owens knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Trojans the lead for good.
“Chaz picked the right time to grow up and really find his groove,” Wilson said. “All night I just kept saying to our guys: ‘get him the ball.’ In that second half, everything was an angle to the basket for him and he was finishing everything.
“It’s like the old saying: ‘keep the ball going to the hot hand.’”
The Trojans outscored the Knights 14-10 in the final 4:32, turning a 40-40 tie into a big road win. In the final two plus minutes, Wissahickon point guard Zach Gelman closed it out by burying 8-for-8 from the line. In the fourth quarter, the Trojans hit 13 of 16 from the charity stripe.
“We didn’t shoot foul shots well in the first half,” Wilson said. “We had to get past it, so it was nice to see. We always say that the point guard has to make free throws and (Gelman) hit a bunch of clutch ones.”
Rustin opened a slight lead early in the second quarter thanks to an 11-0 rally spearheaded by Asparagus, who scored five and added two rebounds, two assists and a steal during the run. The Knights led 24-19 at the break and 33-30 heading into the fourth.
The Knights pressure defense forced 10 first half turnovers, but Wissahickon did not turn the ball over a single time in the second half.
“We didn’t have Asparagus out there,” Cochran explained. “He is long and is at the front of our press. He makes teams throw over him. He is a big part of our pressure and with him not in there, we really couldn’t run it like we wanted to.”
Wissahickon 54, West Chester Rustin 50
WISSAHICKON – Owens 12 4-8 30; Oliphant 0 0-1 0; Johnson 3 1-2 7; Gelman 0 8-8 8; Ford 1 1-4 4; Reiner 2 1-2 5. Totals 18 15-25 54.
WEST CHESTER RUSTIN – McMahon 6 0-0 16; Asparagus 3 1-2 7; Barrouk 2 0-0 6; Frazier 4 0-1 9; Durant 1 0-0 3; Thomas 1 1-2 4; Nelson 1 3-7 5. Totals 18 5-12 50.
Wissahickon 12 7 11 24 — 54
W.C. Rustin 13 11 9 17 — 50
Three-pointers: Owens 2, Ford, McMahon 4, Barrouk 2, Frazier, Thomas.