DLN Girls’ Basketball: Oxford-Rustin American Division title clash features 2 good defenses

When Oxford visits West Chester Rustin to decide the Ches-Mont American Division title Thursday (weather permitting), the contest will feature two strong defenses.
Oxford, tied for first place with Rustin (both are 10-1 in the division), clamped down on Unionville Tuesday, allowing only 12 second-half points in a hard-earned 36-34 win.
“Defense is a point of emphasis for us,” said Urig. “[Against Unionville] defensively in the second half, we just were fundamentally sound – we tried to have good technique, limit our fouls, and limit their second chance opportunities.”
Oxford has been limiting second chances with the help of senior center Grace Hennessey, who grabbed six defensive rebounds against Unionville (nine total). The week before, she was averaging 10 boards per game.
Urig noted, “Grace continues to dominate the glass.”
On offense, Hennessey and senior Emily Shallow combined for 21 points against the Indians.
“Emily has been real steady for us this year,” said Urig last week. “Her stats are not overwhelming, but she has been in the right place at the right time often and has made some key shots during several games this season.”
West Chester Rustin has found the winning touch since the beginning of the new year, and the key to it has been their defense, according to second-year head coach Jim Powers.
“Our defensive play has picked up since the holiday tournaments,” said Powers a couple of weeks ago. “We’re not that big, and [we coaches] have been emphasizing boxing out and rebounding, playing team defense and team rebounding. We have a lot of rotation on defense, and [aim for] having five players on the glass.”
Wednesday, Powers said, “Our only focus is our next game vs Oxford. It really has been one game at a time, win the next eight minutes. The girls have done a great job staying focused and not looking forward and I think it has been a big reason why we are still playing meaningful games this time of the season. As long as we continue to focus on our defense and rebounding we hope to have a chance to win some games moving forward.”
Rustin does have some guns on offense. Maggie O’Hare (17.5 ppg) and Lexi Zavitsky (11 ppg) both are solid from 3-point territory, while Erin Gallagher (12 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.5 bpg) provides strength inside. Zavitsky and Dikaya Daniels, a transfer from Illinois, have been averaging 3-4 steals per game.
Coatesville clinched the National Division title with a 10-2 mark, and its talent pool runs deep and wide. At the guard position, multi-talented senior Dee Dee Irwin (18 ppg, 4 spg, 4 apg) has been a scoring machine, with help from sophomore Sarah Huston (9 ppg, 4 spg, 4 apg). Other major contributors have been senior forward Brianna White (10 ppg), senior forward Siani Brown (8 rpg) and Amaya Douglas (9 ppg).
Just behind Coatesville, in a three-way tie for second place at 8-3 is West Chester Henderson, Bishop Shanahan and Downingtown East.
Henderson can get in the Ches-Mont Final Four playoffs with a win against Avon Grove Thursday (weather permitting) and a Downingtown East victory against Shanahan. The Warriors, who have outrebounded their opponents 39-27 per game, are getting plenty of help on the glass from Abbey Shea (7 rpg), Viki Kneis (7 rpg), Emma Bertrando (6 rpg) and Grace Ferguson (6 rpg).
Leading the way offensively for Henderson has been Bertrando (12 ppg), Maddie DePrisco (9 ppg) and Kneis (8 ppg).
The morning after Henderson’s loss to Coatesville Tuesday, Warrior head coach Greta Neff said, “Our team is poised to get back on the court. We have put ourselves in a good position through some real hard work in the past 8-10 weeks. We are hoping to make the season last as long as possible.”
Shanahan exploded out of the gates Tuesday against West Chester East, rolling to a 41-12 halftime lead and getting 17 points from 6-2 senior forward Courtney Warley, who reached the 1,000 career point milestone.
After a rough first half of the season, the Eagles appear to be rounding into winning form, and got strong consideration for this week’s Daily Local News 7 Best. Shanahan recently has been working on more deliberate shot selection.
“Early this season, we were working on a fast-paced style of play, which wasn’t allowing us to get set defensively,” said Shanahan head coach Fran Burbidge a couple of weeks ago. “Now, we’re not shooting after the first pass, but moving the ball around a little, getting a rhythym going.”
Downingtown East features plenty of size. Tuesday, 6-5 freshman center Bella Smuda, 5-10 junior forward Erin Phelan and junior Olivia Williams combined for 32 points in the Cougars’ 46-31 win against Avon Grove. Phelan has been a solid presnce inside for the Cougars (averaging 55 percent from the field as of mid-January), and Smuda has been displaying flashes of dominant shot-blocking, and in the Cougars’ 54-50 overtime win against Shanahan Jan. 17, she blocked 11 shots and pulled down 13 rebounds.
Villa Maria Academy, which defeated Bishop Shanahan 54-35 Monday, finished second in the regular season in the AACA and will begin its league playoffs against Mount St. Joseph’s Saturday at 6 p.m. at LaSalle College High School. The Hurricanes defeated Mount Jan. 31, and in that game, Villa Maria had 13 assists on 16 field goals.
For the Hurricanes, the big offensive guns have been sophomore Abby Walheim (13.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and senior Marissa Picinich (7.9 ppg), with support from Julia Samar (3.8 apg).
One bright spot for West Chester East this winter has been the play of 5-11 sophomore guard Marissa McDonald, who scored a career-high 24 points against Coatesville Jan. 31. For the season, she is averaging 11.1 ppg, is shooting 76 percent from the free throw line and is the Vikings’ leading rebounder.
“Marissa does a lot for our team – she has made major strides since her freshman year and has doubled her stats in every category,” said West Chester East head coach Erin Listrani. “At 5-11, she presents a match up problem for opponents. Marissa continues to work hard to develop all aspects of her game. I am excited about her future.”
Westtown (12-9), which lost to Shipley in the Friends’ Schools League semfinals Tuesday, will be competing in the PAISAA state tournament Feb. 14. Westtown features a balanced attack with four solid scorers: JoJo Lacey (9.6 ppg, 9.1 rpg); Eunice Jimenez (10.5 ppg, 4 spg, 4.9 spg); Emma Diaz (8.2 ppg, .860 free throw percentage); and Leiya Stuart (7.9 ppg, .770 free throw percentage).
dln girls basketball 7 best
1. Conestoga
2. Coatesville
3. West Chester Henderson
4. Downingtown East
5. Villa Maria Academy

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