EAST WHITELAND >> It was definitely a tale of two halves Thursday night in a key Ches-Mont League American Division contest, as West Chester Rustin jetted out to a 10-point halftime lead, only to see Great Valley come roaring back in the second half, outscoring the Golden Knights 30-19 in the second half for a thrilling 45-44 win.
The game was not decided until Great Valley’s Gavin Frankenheimer stole a Rustin pass and got fouled, hitting one of two free throws with four seconds to play.
“I saw that the guard picked up his dribble,” Frankenheimer said. “So I got right in his face, stuck my hand in there and got the ball. And after I missed the first foul shot I knew I had to relax and make the next one. It helped that I was in the same situation last year.”
West Chester Rustin (3-1 Ches-Mont American, 5-4 overall) took a 25-15 halftime edge largely due to Bryce Barrouk’s three 3-pointers and the inside play of junior Taj Asparagus, as the Golden Knights found some holes in the Great Valley (4-1, 8-4) zone defense. But Great Valley, which turned the ball over eight times in the first half, came out on fire in the third quarter, outscoring the Golden Knights 25-15 in the period to tie the game at 30-30 after three.
Barrouk had five three-balls for the Golden Knights and along with Asparagus, led the Golden Knights with 16 points.
Rustin did not score until there was 3:21 left in the period and Great Valley senior center Nate Graef shredded the Golden Knights inside for eight of his team high 16 points. Graef was also a terror on the boards, hauling in 10 rebounds.
“We started to pound the ball inside the other night against Unionville,” Graef said. “And it does not matter if a little guy is on me or a big guy like Jake Nelson. I just talk the ball as strong as I can to the basket. At halftime, assistant coach C.J. Savage really got us going and we came out with more energy than we had in the first half.”
Great Valley and Rustin battled back and forth in a wonderfully played fourth quarter. The Patriots changed to a man to man defense, and it seemed to give the Golden Knights trouble, especially with big man Nelson saddled with foul trouble.
When Liam Ward, who had 14 points, drained a 3-pointer to give Great Valley a 39-37 lead with a little over three minutes to play, the pro Patriot crowd was on its feet. But Rustin was not done. Guard Bryce Pew scored two straight baskets for Rustin, but Graef rolled down the lane for a basket and it was a 41-41 game with 2:15 to play.
“In the first half we committed too many turnovers and did not shoot well from the outside,” Great Valley coach Paul Girone said. “And we came out in the second half and went to a man to man because they burned us a little with our zone and we did not help on Barrouk, which gave us an advantage with Nelson in foul trouble. And then at the end it is anybody’s game and Nate Graef really stepped up for us and then Gavin gets the steals and we win a very important game.”
Matt Porreca stole a Rustin pass, got fouled and hit one of two from the line for a 42-41 Patriot lead with 1:23 to play. But Nelson coolly came down the floor and drained a 3-pointer for his only points of the game to give Rustin a 44-42 lead. Porreca drove the lane and got fouled again, hitting both free throws to tie the contest at 44-44 and setting up Frankenheimer’s heroics.
The win keeps the Patriots tied with Rustin and Unionville at the top of the American Division.
“This game could have went either way,” West Chester Rustin coach Keith Cochran said. “But give Great Valley credit. They beat us and they deserved to win the game.”
Note >> Great Valley shot 18 for 49 from the field and only committed one turnover in the second half.
Great Valley 45, West Chester Rustin 44
W.C. RUSTIN (44): Asparagus 7 2-4 16, Barrouk 5 1-1 16, Nelson 1 0-0 3, Batchelor 1 1-3 3, Pew 2 0-0 4. Totals 15 4-8 44.
GREAT VALLEY (45): Frankenheimer 2 1-2 5, Graef 8 0-0 16, Ward 5 2-4 14, Porecca 3 4-5 10, Prevost 0 0-0 0, Stillwell 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 7-11 45.
W.C. Rustin 13 12 5 14 – 44
Great Valley 11 4 15 15 – 45
3-point goals; Barrouk 5, Nelson, Ward 2.