Rustin comes up big with road win at first-place Oxford

EAST NOTTINGHAM >> Tuesday marked the midway point of the Ches-Mont League girls’ basketball slate, where every division foe has played each other once. And West Chester Rustin came out with a great sense of urgency at Oxford.

Determined to avoid falling two full games behind the host Hornets, the Golden Knights were highly motivated, and it showed in the earlygoing of what became a critical 49-37 Ches-Mont American victory.

“It was a win we had to have,” said Rustin head coach Jim Powers. “Going down two games in this league would have very difficult. We had to scratch this one out in order to set ourselves up to contend.”

Now 8-7 overall, the Knights pulled into a first-place tie with Oxford at 5-1 in the American Division. Rustin faces Kennett Thursday night in another key league battle. The Hornets fall to 8-5 overall.

“It is going to be a dogfight the rest of the way,” said Oxford head coach Brian Urig. “We just lost a ballgame, but halfway through the league schedule we are tied for first. A lot of teams would take that.”

Rustin led wire-to-wire, benefitting from a red-hot start, and closing it out with near perfection from the free throw line. The Knights did most of their considerable first half offensive damage on the interior, while the Hornets’ deliberate attack struggled.

“It was a good win,” said Rustin’s junior forward Maggie O’Hare. “We played really good defense. We stayed with it and didn’t let down.

“It ended up winning the game for us.”

On the flip side, the Hornets were very sluggish right from the opening tip-off. In fact, Urig called a timeout just 17 seconds in, and the Knights opened a double-digit lead midway through the opening quarter. Rustin then broke it open with a 12-1 rally in the second quarter and took a commanding 32-19 lead into the halftime break.

“The start gave the girls confidence early and settled them down, knowing they can come into this environment,” Powers said.

“Hats off to Rustin,” Urig added. “They came in here ready to go. That’s why they’ve been in the (Ches-Mont) final four the last few years. They had a focus and composure.”

In the first half, the Knights’ frontcourt of O’Hare, Erin Gallagher and Dikiya Daniels outscored its counterparts, 25-4. O’Hare finished with a game-high 18 points and Gallagher chipped in 14.

“We worked well as a team, passed the ball around and we didn’t throw anything up there that we didn’t need. We waited for the good shot,” O’Hare said about the start.

“We’ve been going inside a lot to Maggie,” Powers pointed out. “It’s not something we did earlier, but we are finding out it can be successful. Now, if we can play inside and out, it will make us a little tougher to guard.”

The Knights, however, cooled off considerably in the third, scoring just two points in the quarter. But thanks to continued work at the defensive end, Rustin prevented Oxford from making up much ground. The Hornets managed just six in the period and still trailed 34-25 heading into the final eight minutes.

“The score was stuck at a 10 point game for, probably, half a dozen possessions. I felt we got some decent looks, but we just weren’t finishing,” Urig complained.

“We had a hard time putting the ball in the bucket in the second half, but our defense didn’t just keep us in it, it kept us ahead by nine points heading into the fourth quarter,” Powers added.

After making some adjustments, Oxford clamped down defensively in the second half and finally made a run. Quiet for much of the day, center Grace Hennessy came alive in the fourth quarter and helped the Hornets pull to within six, 36-30. But Rustin closed it out by burying 13 of 14 from the free throw line.

“We work on it a lot in practice,” said O’Hare, who knocked down 7-8 from the line down the stretch.

“They’ve been putting the time in,” Powers agreed. “We learned in some earlier games, and some tough losses, how important free throws are. In our last six or seven games, we’ve been very consistent with it.”

Until a very late surge, Hornets’ star guard Miranda Porretta struggled, but still wound up leading the way with 12 points. Porretta was 1-for-9 from the field prior to scoring seven points in the final period. Nobody else scored more than six for Oxford.

The Hornets actually outscored Rustin in the second half, but never really recovered from the poor start.

“We battled back and gave ourselves a chance later in the game, but it was too much in the beginning,” Urig said.

West Chester Rustin 49, Oxford 37
W.C. Rustin    18    14    2    15 – 49
Oxford    9    10    6    12 – 37
W.C. RUSTIN; Gallagher 6 2-2 14, Magrone 1 0-0 3, Daniels 3 0-0 6, O’Hare 3 12-14 18, Zavitsky 1 4-5 6, Costin 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 18-21 49.
OXFORD: Williams 0 2-2 2, Shallow 1 1-2 4, D’Aquanno 2 2-3 6, Hennessy 1 4-7 6, Porretta 3 5-6 12, Herrin 2 0-0 6, Hampshire 0 1-2 1. Totals 9 15-22 37.
3-point goals: Magrone, Shallow, Porretta, Herrin 2.

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