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West Chester Henderson tops Rustin for first Ches-Mont title

WEST GOSHEN >> When the final buzzer sounded in West Chester Henderson’s 63-58 victory over Rustin for its first-ever Ches-Mont girls basketball championship Tuesday, the five Warrior starters were flooded with emotion.

“I started crying the last five seconds of the game, and went over and gave Coach Greta [Neff] a hug,” Henderson senior point guard Maddie DePrisco said. “This championship means the world to me — it’s been a goal of mine since my freshman year, getting that first banner up there on the wall.”

Warrior forward Grace Ferguson said in an emotional voice, “I looked up at the clock and saw there were only two seconds left and I realized we were going to win. It means the world to me. At the buzzer, I ran out and hugged all my teammates.”

“When the buzzer sounded, I felt pure joy,” said senior guard Erin Torrance. “This means the world to me — it’s something we’ve been working on since Day 1.”

Henderson senior forward Abbey Shea said, “When the buzzer sounded, I was kind of shocked. I’ve been here four years, and this title means everything to me. It shows that Henderson means something — we’ll have that banner in our gym. Coach Neff got us to this point.”

Junior guard Erin Thompson said, “I couldn’t be happier. This was such a team win, something we’ve been working on since Nov. 17.”

For Henderson (24-0), in the Ches-Mont Final Four for the first time in program history, this was a roller-coaster win, featuring a number of lead changes in a feverishly-paced second half.

The Warriors led the entire first half, jumping out of the gate with a 12-1 lead, and holding a 27-13 lead early in the second quarter.

But a blistering 20-4 run by Rustin gave the Golden Knights a 33-31 lead in the third quarter. The game was tied 39-39 at the end of the third quarter, then Henderson went on a 12-0 run in the first 4 ½ minutes of the final quarter. Rustin gave Henderson one last scare in the final minutes, but the composed Warriors kept hitting their free throws to maintain the lead against the Golden Knights (20-4). In the final period, Henderson converted 18 of 24 from the line.

“I’m so happy for these kids, they worked so hard to get this,” said Henderson head coach Greta Neff. “Good teams make runs, and we’ve had streaks like this where we’ve played from behind this season. Our free throws were key in the final quarter, and we came up with some huge rebounds.”

Led by Shea (11 rebounds), the Warriors got plenty of help on the boards from Ferguson (six), Torrance (five) and Thompson (five).

Henderson got off to a 12-1 lead in the first quarter, relying on the inside scoring of Shea and Ferguson and the outside shooting of Torrance (who had eight first-quarter points, including a couple of treys) and led at the end of the period 21-10.

Early in the second quarter, Henderson senior guard Adrienne Smith made a steal followed by an end-to-end drive to make it 27-13. It looked like smooth sailing for Henderson at that point.

But then Rustin came back with a 20-4 run of its own, led by seniors Erin Gallagher and Maggie O’Hare, who combined for 15 third-quarter points (and 46 points for the game). O’Hare tallied 19 points in the second half, including four treys.

Rustin crept to within 28-19 at halftime, and when Golden Knight junior Becca Magrone nailed a three-pointer from the left corner to make it 33-31 in the third quarter, it was Rustin’s first lead of the night.

The lead changed hands several times during the rest of the frenetic third quarter. Ferguson’s putback tied the score at 33-33, O’Hare hit two free throws to give Rustin a 35-33 lead, then DePrisco drove in for a score to tie the game at 35-35.

Thompson drove in for another layup to make it 37-35 Henderson, then Rustin junior Dakiya Daniels scored underneath to tie the score at 37-37. Ferguson and Gallagher each scored inside in the final seconds of the third quarter, which ended in a 39-39 tie.

In the fourth quarter, Henderson went off on a 12-0 run to start the period, while Rustin missed nine straight field goal attempts. The 12-0 run began when Ferguson scored inside, then Thompson converted two free throws to make it 43-39. Following a couple of missed Rustin shots from the outside, Shea scored twice underneath, and Thompson and Torrance each added two free throws to make it 51-39. Thompson converted 11 free throws in the final period, finishing with 23 points.

Thompson said, “Rustin has some good scorers who are good off screens, but Abbey Shea and Erin Torrance played amazing defense on their scorers.”

Shea said, “In the fourth quarter, we stayed composed and played sound defense.”

Rustin head coach Jim Powers said, “We were able to fight back in the third quarter when we didn’t make any turnovers, but when we started the fourth quarter with two turnovers, we were back to climbing the mountain again. “We fought hard, and we came back in the third quarter, but Henderson played well, and it was a tough matchup for us – we don’t have the size of [Henderson’s two forwards]. Our season’s not over – we have a shot at districts, and hopefully we’ll learn some things from this game.”

Rustin chewed away at Henderson’s lead in the fourth quarter, helped by a trio of treys from O’Hare. She nailed a couple of three-pointers to make it 52-45, then a minute later a Henderson turnover followed by another O’Hare trey cut the Warriors’ lead to 53-51.

Torrance was fouled, and converted both to make it 55-51. A Rustin missed shot was followed by a foul on Thompson, who coolly stepped to the line and made both for a 57-51 lead.

O’Hare tallied underneath to make it 57-53. Shea intercepted a Rustin pass, was fouled and converted both of her free throws to make it 60-53 with less than a minute left.

Gallagher nailed her fourth trey of the night, from the top of the key, to cut Henderson’s lead to 60-56 with 37.9 seconds left. Four seconds later Thompson was fouled and converted both for a 62-56 lead.

Gallagher scored again, this time underneath to make it 62-58, then Thompson’s free throw with 7.9 seconds left gave the Warriors their final five-point margin.

Henderson is the No. 1 seed in the District 1 Class 5A tournament and will open Tuesday night at home vs. No. 16 Upper Moreland. Rustin is seeded second and will host No. 15 Pottsgrove Tuesday night.

West Chester Henderson 63, West Chester Rustin 58
West Chester Henderson (63): DePrisco 1 0-0 2, Thompson 4 13-18 23, Torrance 4 4-4 14, Smith 1 0-0 2, Shea 4 4-6 12, Ferguson 5 0-0 10, Totals 19 21-28 63.
West Chester Rustin (58): Palona 1 0-0 2, Gatto 0 0-0 0, Gallagher 9 0-0 22, Magrone 1 0-0 3, Daniels 3 1-1 7, O’Hare 8 4-7 24, Totals 22 5-8 58.
W.C. Henderson 21 7 11 24 – 63
W. C. Rustin 10 9 20 19 – 58
3-point goals: Thompson 2, Torrance 2, Gallagher 4, O’Hare 4, Magrone.

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