WESTTOWN >> Tuesday night at West Chester Rustin, Great Valley needed a win to clinch the Ches-Mont League American Division title.
They would have to do it without senior center and second-leading scorer Nate Graef.
With Graef on the bench with concussion symptoms, the Patriots showed plenty of heart, especially on the defensive end. All the Patriots did was hold Rustin to 39 points, blowing open a close game in the fourth quarter to take a 52-39 triumph that cinched the regular season Ches-Mont American title.
The Patriots will play the number two seed from Ches-Mont National, either Coatesville or Bishop Shanahan at Downingtown West Saturday.
Rustin makes the Final Four as the second seed out of the American and will face the National winner.
“We really came together when we heard Nate was out,” Great Valley forward Liam Ward said. “We had a great defensive plan to cover Jake Nelson in the post and we ran our offense very well. We really wanted this game because Rustin had a lot of good wins over good teams. This is a great feeling to win this on their court.”
Great Valley (11-1 Ches-Mont American, 16-6 overall) broke open a 31-29 game at the end of three quarters to take home the title. Drew Hickson, who drained three 3-pointers for Rustin, gave the Golden Knights a 32-31 lead right off the bat in the fourth. But Gavin Frankenheimer hit a three to make it a 35-32 game and Great Valley would never trail gain. Rustin (9-2, 13-8) got eight points from center Jake Nelson, including the 1,000th point of his career in the first quarter, but Nelson and Taj Asparagus were held below their season averages.
“It all starts with defense and the kids did that great tonight,” said Great Valley coach Paul Girone. “The kids like Liam and Matt Porreca played great defense and on offense they ran the offense well and really came together without Nate. And Jake Prevost did a great job fronting Nelson all night.”
The Patriots broke open a 35-34 game with a 9-0 run in the fourth and Great Valley shot five for seven from the field in the final quarter to go along with a five for six from the free throw line. At 35-34 with 4:10 left, Ward, who led Great Valley with 14 points along with Porreca, went strong to the hole for a 37-34 lead.
A Rustin turnover, one of five for the Golden Knights in the final quarter, led to a Porreca basket in the lane for a 39-34 advantage. Another Rustin turnover with 2:24 left led to a Prevost basket and foul shot to make it 42-34 with just under two minutes to play. Great Valley drained seven treys on the night and went 12 of 16 from the free throw line while only turning the ball over eight times in a very impressive performance.
Porreca then stripped Asparagus and drove hard to the basket for a layup to make it 44-34, and the Golden Knights’ chances at a regular season championship disappeared. Rustin shot just 16 for 40 on the night and four for 13 in the final stanza.
“When we heard Nate was out it was big because for the last three games he has been scoring most of our points,” Frankenheimer said. “But, we knew we had to step up as a team and all contribute and that is what we did. It is a crazy feeling to win this championship.”
West Chester Rustin coach Keith Cochran still has the Ches-Mont Final Four to look forward to, and he praised the Patriots’ play.
“Great Valley really played well. They played as a team very together tonight.”
GREAT VALLEY (52): Stilweel 1 2- 25, Prevost 3 1-2 7, Ward 5 2-2 14, Porreca 4 4-5 14, Prevost 3 1-2 7, Frankenheimer 3 3-5 11, Fredrick 0 0-0 0, Carter 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 12-16 52.
W.C. RUSTIN (39): Nelson 3 2-2 8, asparagus 3 4-7 10, Pew 3 0-0 6, Demarco 1 0-0 2, Hickson 3 0-0 9, Barrouk 2 0-0 4, Batchelor 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 6-10 39.
Great Valley 11 11 9 21 – 52
W.C. Rustin 4 17 8 10 – 39
3-point goals: Hickson 3, Ward 2, Frankenheimer 2, Stillwell, Porreca 2.
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