DOWNINGTOWN >> Bishop Shanahan’s never won a Ches-Mont boys’ basketball crown. But thanks to Saturday’s 56-41 triumph over West Chester Rustin, the Eagles are back into the championship game for the second straight year – and a familiar foe stands in the way once again.
“I kind of knew it was going to come down to us versus Coatesville,” acknowledged senior guard David Angelo. “I’ve been hoping for another shot at them with the title on the line since we lost to them last year.”
Shanahan and the Red Raiders have split two meetings so far and wound up sharing the Ches-Mont National regular season crown. They will square off for the title on Tuesday at Downingtown West.
“We finally have our second chance,” said senior forward Kevin Dodds. “Last year, it was just awful because we fell short. We want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“We need to finish the last 32 minutes in order to be Ches-Mont champions. This is very special to me and the whole school. I want to make sure we get this done.”
But the Eagles (18-4 overall) had to get past Rustin in the semifinals at Downingtown West in order to make the rematch a reality. Angelo and Dodds wound up combining to score 36 points to lead the way for Shanahan, who outscored the Golden Knights by 13 in the second half.
“As much as the kids were looking forward to playing in the final again, we knew we had to get through Rustin,” said Eagles’ head coach Ken Doyle. “We did not talk about (Coatesville) – our goal was to get there because there are no guarantees.
“On Tuesday we need to play our game, play with focus and play together,” he added. “We need to do the things that have gotten us to this point and put us in this position. This performance, especially in the second half, was a lot better than we’ve been playing recently.”
One reason is that Shanahan is getting healthy at the right time. Dodds and fellow starter Joe O’Malley have missed games recently, but both played well against a Rustin squad that is now 14-9 overall and finished second in the Ches-Mont American race.
“It’s been a tough stretch over the last couple weeks between injuries and illness, and we played seven games in 12 days up until this past week,” Doyle explained. “We had our first full practice with everybody on Friday, so we’ve been kind of mixing and matching for a while and the kids have done a fantastic job of holding things together.”
The 6-foot-7 Dodds missed several games in January with the flu – including a loss at Coatesville — but on Saturday he scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the middle two quarters to help the Eagles gradually take control of the game.
“I lost 12 pounds during that five-day span, so I had to build everything back up again. But I feel 100 percent right now,” Dodds said.
“Kevin was a little rusty early, but you wouldn’t have noticed it unless you were around him a lot,” Doyle added. “We noticed that he wasn’t as explosive as he normally is. But he’s back and he’s been good for about a week now.”
Rustin was ahead by a point until Dodds ended the second quarter with two straight buckets and Shanahan took a 24-21 lead. But it wasn’t until the Eagles scored the first seven points of the second half that they started to take control. The lead was nine heading into the final period, and then the Eagles threw the knockout blow with a 9-3 run to start the final quarter.
“Shanahan is experienced, they play well together and they never get rattled,” said Rustin head coach Keith Cochran. “We tried different man-to-man and zone defenses, but they move the ball well, they share it and they aren’t really concerned with who scores.”
With four senior starters, the Eagles are a veteran group. And now that all the pieces are back together, the ball movement on offense and the team defense is starting to look like the team that won 10 of its first 11 games, including a home triumph over Coatesville.
“We have a great group of guys and we’ve been playing together for a while. We hang around even when we’re not playing, so it’s great team chemistry,” said Angelo, who scored 17.
“We always know exactly where everyone’s going to be on the court,” Dodds pointed out. “I thought we played pretty well. We distributed the ball, we had good kick-outs for 3’s. And in the second half, we really just went after (Rustin).”
Bryce Barrouk knocked down four 3-pointers and scored 14 to lead the Knights. But frontcourt standouts Jake Nelson and Taj Asparagus combined to score just 15 points, and just two in the second half.
“Asparagus and Nelson are very good players, but having Dodds and (Tom) Ford we would be able to match up with their strength,” Doyle said.
“In close games like this one, every possession matters,” Cochran added. “If you miss an assignment against (Shanahan), they make you pay.”
Bishop Shanahan 56, West Chester Rustin 41
BISHOP SHANAHAN – O’Malley 3 2-2 9; Chenard 2 0-0 6; Dodds 9 1-5 19; Wilson 0 0-2 0; Angelo 7 0-0 17; DiBeneditto 1 0-0 2; Ford 0 3-4 3. Totals 22 6-13 56.
WEST CHESTER RUSTIN – Pew 1 0-0 2; Asparagus 3 0-2 6; B. Barrouk 5 0-0 14; Wethy 1 0-0 2; Hickson 2 0-0 6; Batchelor 1 0-0 2; Nelson 4 1-4 9. Totals 17 1-6 41.
W.C. Rustin 10 11 10 10 — 41
Bishop Shanahan 13 11 16 17 — 56
Three-point goals: O’Malley, Chenard 2, Angelo 3, Barrouk 4, Hickson 2.