Downingtown East ends W.C. Rustin’s Ches-Mont winning streak at 40, will face Bishop Shanahan in title game

WEST GOSHEN — As Kaelyn Johns received the ball in the final seconds, her Downingtown East teammates celebrated in jubilation near head coach Bob Schnure for ending one of the longest win streaks in Ches-Mont League history.

Johns still felt the pain of losing to West Chester Rustin in last season’s Ches-Mont Championship game heading into Saturday’s rematch with the Golden Knights. That pain has finally subsided.

“We wanted to come back and get after them after last year,’ Johns said. “We wanted to prove to them that we were one of the best teams in the Ches-Mont. I think we did.’

The Cougars certainly made a statement.

Paige Warfel scored a game-high 20 points as Downingtown East upset two-time defending league champion West Chester Rustin, 57-40, in the second game of the Ches-Mont Final Four at West Chester East on Saturday night.

The Cougars (18-5) extended their winning streak to nine games and will face Ches-Mont National Division champion Bishop Shanahan, a 47-31 winner over Unionville in the other semifinal, in the Ches-Mont Championship on Tuesday night, 7 p.m., at West Chester East.

The Golden Knights (17-5) had their 13-game winning streak snapped with the loss and were denied a chance to win a third league championship in a row.

Downingtown East halted Rustin’s Ches-Mont winning streak at 40 games, dating back to the Golden Knights’ 2012 loss to Downingtown West in the league title game. Of Schnure’s 787 career wins, this one ranked right up there with one of the best given the hand he was dealt with.

The Cougars were without Aryah Aungst, who missed her fourth straight game with an injury. Also, out were their top-three bench players with injuries.

In came Tori Barretta, who never played a varsity game until eight days ago, scoring nine points in her fourth stright start.

Schnure only played his five starters and got strong performances from each of them.

“It was a game where every kid played really well for us,’ Schnure said. “I thought we did a good job taking a lot of available opportunities on offense and we did a decent job when they penetrated and made a hard shot by not letting them get all the way to the rim. Those were big. A lot of different kids stepped up.’

Downingtown East took control of the game late in the second quarter. Trailing 21-19, Lindsay Kent hit an open juper in the paint to tie the game 21-21.

The Cougars would not trail from that point.

On East’s next possession, Johns (standing 29 feet from the rim) wowed the crowd with a pinpoint, on the fly cross-court pass to Laura Ochsner, who was standing five feet to the right of the rim. Ochsner caught the ball and finished with a jumper to put East up 23-21.

The Cougars closed the half on an 8-0 run after Warfel faked Grace Nelson and drove past two defenders in the lane for an easy layup to put East up 27-21.

Warfel took over in the second half, scoring 13 points (8 in the fourth quarter) to extend East’s margain. After Warfel used another solid drive to make it 38-28 late in the third, Johns closed the quarter with a jumper to give the Cougars a commanding 40-28 lead after three.

Rustin could not recover from the deficit as East hit 11-of-16 free throws down the stretch to pull off the upset. Johns finished with six points, but controlled the floor with thread-the-needle passes that found open players throughout the night.

“Kaelyn’s a vet,’ Schnure said. “She’s one of my smartest players and sees things out on the floor sometimes that I don’t see. It’s great to have a kid with a real good sense of athletics out there.’

“I’m always looking to pass and find the open person,’ Johns said. “That was my job today and playing defense on Noelle (Powell). Those were my two goals and I did pretty well on both.’

Powell finished with 13 points, but had just four after halftime. Casey Warley led Rustin with 14 points.

Kent finished with 14 points for the Cougars while Ochsner had 8 in the win.

The road to the Ches-Mont title is not complete for Downingtown East, as the Cougars set themselves up for another match with Bishop Shanahan, the third between the two rivals this year.

Despite falling to the Eagles twice by a combined six points, East is set for the rematch.

“We so ready, beyond ready,’ Warfel said. “We want to beat them so bad.’

“We get them one more time,’ Kent said. “This time, we’re really going for them harder than we ever have before. We want this championship real bad.’

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