BENSALEM >> Jake Reichwein hauled in one tough rebound after another, Shane McCusker kept battling his way to the foul line, and on the defensive end, Central Bucks West refused to bend.
With its 53-43 victory over Abington, the Bucks are headed back to the finals of the Suburban One League Challenge for the second time in three years.
“Coming in, we knew we were underdogs so we kind of embraced the challenge. Even though they didn’t have (6-foot-7 forward Eric) Dixon (injured), we were still underdogs and we took the challenge,” said McCusker, who scored a team-high 15 points for West.
“We won ugly,” McCusker said. “We kept fighting. We had a bad second quarter but then we came back and we stuck with it.”
The win sends West (19-4) to Monday night’s final against Plymouth Whitemarsh, which defeated Pennridge in the other semifinal Saturday night at Bensalem.
“I’m proud of the group,” said Bucks coach Adam Sherman, who guided his team to the tournament title in 2016. “We get a chance to play for the SOL title which is exciting. (Going for the second time in three years) is pretty cool. That’s pretty cool.
“The kids played tough. We got stops when we needed them and we were able to hit enough free throws to put it out of reach.”
A drive to the hoop by Collin MacAdams put West in front for good, 35-33, early in the fourth quarter. Reichwein slithered his way through a crowd and put it up and in to extend the lead moments later, and after another defensive board by Reichwein and a pair of free throws by MacAdams, West was on its way, up 39-33.
“We settled down,” Sherman said of his squad, which came back from a four-point hole at the half. “I thought we were playing too fast for a stretch in the second quarter and thought we took too many stagnant shots. I thought we were better off once we got (Abington) playing defense a little bit.”
As a result, the Ghosts (18-5) got into foul trouble and West would make 18 of 27 foul shots in a decisive fourth quarter.
Lucas Monroe (game-high 20 points) finished off a strong game with a pair of baskets inside, the second bringing the Ghosts within 48-43.
But foul shots by McCusker put the game away in the final minute.
“They have some really good players. Monroe, (Robbie) Heath are really good so we put all of our focus on them to make other guys beat us,” said McCusker.
Heath managed nine for Abington but the Ghosts struggled to maintain a rhythm on the offensive end.
“We didn’t have a good shooting day. We got our looks. We just didn’t finish. (CB West) made some shots. They made some tough ones late,” said Abington coach Charles Grasty, who led his team to tournament titles in 2015 and 2017.
“We wanted to win and defend our championship but we’re not disappointed. The guys gave their all. We’re excited to get to districts and see how far we can take this thing.”
Abington reached the final of the SOL Challenge each of the first three years. West will now be making its second appearance.
“Move the ball as much as we can,” McCusker said of the focus offensively. “That’s been our emphasis all year. All four games we lost this year, we didn’t move the ball. We kind of nipped that in the bud early and now we’re finding our stride just at the right time.
“And now we play PW Monday and we’re even bigger underdogs. We wanna embrace the challenge and play loose. We have nothing to lose.”
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