EAST NOTTINGHAM – It doesn’t quite have the devastating effect of a pick-six like you see in football. But Coatesville’s ultra-quick guards are masters of the basketball equivalent: the steal that leads to an uncontested lay-in at the other end.
And on Saturday in the semifinals of the Ches-Mont Playoffs, the Red Raiders used that formula to stage a late surge and complete a come from behind 60-50 win over a game, but shorthanded, West Chester Rustin squad.
“When we pick it up on defense, it turns to offense,” said Dapree Bryant, who is half of Coatesville’s dynamic backcourt along with fellow junior Jhamir Brickus. “It’s real important for us. When we are doing that, we are a good team.”
The regular season C-M National champs, the Raiders improve to 22-1 overall, and will take a 16-game winning streak into Tuesday’s final against Unionville (7 p.m. at Downingtown West).
“(Coatesville’s backcourt is) strong, physical and athletic,” said Rustin head coach Keith Cochran. “We fought, but they just kept coming.
“We knew that, but you can’t match their speed in practice. Brickus and Bryant are not only two of the better guards, but two of the better athletes in the county.”
The Golden Knights (15-8 overall) led well into the second half, but Brickus and Bryant spearheaded the comeback by putting on a clinic in pressure defense. The Raiders forced 16 of 30 turnovers in the second half, and more often than not, it was either Brickus or Bryant then converting on the fast break.
“It’s almost impossible to come back from that many turnovers,” Cochran said.
“We focus on trying to create turnovers and get easy baskets off of it,” added Brickus, who poured in 31 points. “That’s how we win. That’s the number one thing – defense wins games.”
That was a recipe as Coatesville scored the last eight points of the third quarter to take the lead for good. And then in the fourth quarter Brickus had back-to-back steals and buckets to complete a 9-0 run, which put the Raiders in charge 51-39.
“I talk to my players all the time that we don’t have size, but we have speed,” said Coatesville head coach Fred Thompson. “Size can beat you, but speed can kill you.
“We try to speed teams up, make then play fast in the first half and then hopefully by the fourth quarter we’ve worn them down. That’s what happened.”
Comfortably ahead in the final two minutes, the Raiders’ Dymere Miller was whistled for two technical fouls, and then Thompson got another on top of it. Miller was ejected from the game and will miss the championship game on Tuesday. Rustin freshman IV Pettit then proceeded to make 6-7 from the line, but it still wasn’t enough to alter the outcome.
“We can’t afford to be losing our sixth man,” Thompson said. “It just happened so fast, but you live and you learn. (Miller) is a great kid. He’ll learn from it.”
Despite turning it over often, Rustin played well enough in the first half to take a 30-25 lead into the break. Pettit scored 11 of his 19 points in the first half, and sophomore forward Jacob Barksdale added nine of his 11 points in the early going.
“We have a bright future,” Cochran said “Barksdale is going to be a mainstay for us for the next two years and Pettit will be for the next three.”
Barksdale was in the lineup in place of senior standout Taj Asparagus, who is suspended.
“He got into an altercation at school with another student,” Cochran reported. “The administration just felt that it was best for him to take some time off. He’ll definitely be back for the districts.”
Senior Jake Nelson, who recently became Rustin’s career scoring leader, chipped in 14 points for the Knights. Bryant scored seven of his nine points for Coatesville in the pivotal third quarter.
“I didn’t think we played bad,” Thompson said. “We just missed a lot of shots we usually hit. We got the necessary turnovers we needed in the first half, we just didn’t make shots.
“Once we got the lead, we wanted (Rustin) to chase us, and no one is going to chase us without giving us layups or wide open jumpers.”
Brickus recently passed Coatesville legend Rip Hamilton (1,593) to move into second on the program’s all-time scoring list. Just a junior, he is now chasing only John Allen’s top mark of 2,371.
“People don’t realize Jhamir is just an 11th grader,” Thompson said. “He’s got another year and he has a lot that he can work on to make him better. He’ll do that.”
Coatesville 60, West Chester Rustin 50
WEST CHESTER RUSTIN – Pew 1 0-0 3; Pettit 3 10-11 19; Batchelor 1 0-0 2; Nelson 5 4-8 14; Barksdale 4 3-4 11. Total 14 17-23 50.
COATESVILLE – D. Brickus 1 0-0 2; J. Brickus 11 7-9 31; Bryant 4 1-4 9; Young 0 0-2 0; Miller 2 1-2 5; Proctor 3 0-0 6; Holmes 2 3-4 7. Totals 23 12-21 60.
W.C. Rustin 17 13 7 12 — 50
Coatesville 14 11 17 18 — 60
Three-pointers: Pew, Pettit 3, J. Brickus 2.
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