Warley, Powell lead No. 6 W.C. Rustin in second half over No. 27 C.R. South

WESTTOWN — Noelle Powell realized West Chester Rustin needed to improve its play going into the second half.

Leading by just one at halftime against No. 27 Council Rock South, the sixth-seeded Golden Knights had little margin for error.

Especially since Rustin had eight turnovers and plenty of missed open shots in the first 16 minutes of its district playoff opener.

“We just needed to pick it up,’ Powell said. “From this point on, the games are going to be really tough. We were just playing slow in that first half, so it was important to finish strong.’

The Golden Knights received the message.

Casey Warley led Rustin with 15 points while Powell finished with 14 as the Golden Knights held Council Rock South to 13 points in the second half in a 47-30 win over the Golden Hawks in a District 1 Class AAAA first-round game Friday night.

West Chester Rustin (18-5) has won 14 of its last 15 games and advanced to the second round where it awaits the winner of No. 11 Downingtown East and No. 22 Haverford today. With the first round win, the Golden Knights are guaranteed at least two more games due to playback rounds.

Council Rock South (12-11) was eliminated from the tournament with the loss, ending its season.

Rustin struggled to find a rhythm throughout the first half, which kept C.R. South within one, 18-17, at the break.

Once the second half began, the Golden Knights didn’t make any defensive changes. Instead, Annie Pitts and the Rustin rotation reacted to the quickness of the Golden Hawks’ offense.

“They weren’t as big as we thought they we going to be,’ Pitts said. “If we could stop the middle, especially No. 11 (Payton Spadaccino). She was really good in there. If we could stop them inside, we would shut them down.’

Once Cara Barlow hit a 3-pointer to give C.R. South a 23-22 lead with 3:30 to play in the third quarter, the Golden Hawks offense was shut down by Pitts and company.

On the offensive end, Rustin took advantage.

Warley hit a 3-pointer on Rustin’s next possession to give the Golden Knights the lead for good at 25-23. A minute later, Grace Nelson forced a steal in the paint and found a wide-open Powell up the court for an easy layup to make it 27-23 at the 1:43 mark of the quarter.

On C.R. South’s next possession, Powell stole the ball in the paint and drove to the oppsite end where she was fouled. She hit both free throws to close the third quarter, with Rustin holding a 29-22 lead.

The Golden Knights added to the run in the fourth as Warley fould a wide open Powell under the basket for an easy layup to make it 33-23. Warley followed with a jumper on Rustin’s next possession for a 35-23 lead, then Courtney Warley hit a layup to build the Golden Knights’ lead to 37-23 with 4:58 to play.

Rustin went on a 15-0 run to take control of the game. In the process, C.R. South was held without a point for 8:01, until Faith Turner hit a jumper with 3:29 left in the game.

“We did a better job in the second half of not being pressured to score so quick,’ said Warley, who had five points during the 15-0 run. “When we work the ball around, that’s when we play our best.’

The Golden Hawks cut Rustin’s lead to 11 at 39-28 with under three minutes to play. Warley answered on the other end with a 3-pointer in the corner to make it 42-28 with 2:24 to play, effectively sealing the win for the Golden Knights. Rustin outscored C.R. South 25-7 to close the game after trailing by one at the 3:30 mark in the third. Playing in 15 playoff games over the past two seasons paid off for the Golden Knights, which despite some recent struggles, remain a contender for the district and state title.

“We know how playoffs work and how hard it is to advance,’ Pitts said. “Your ranking doesn’t matter. Anything can happen any night. We don’t want our season to end just yet.’

“We just have to keep moving and get into the flow of the game,’ Powell said. “If we can do that, we’ll be fine.’

NOTES — After her 14-point performance, Powell has 1,491 points in her career. The senior is Rustin’s all-time leading scorer and nine points away from 1,500… Barlow led C.R. South with 11 points.

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