Nelson, Asparagus lead West Chester Rustin past Upper Perkiomen

WESTTOWN >> West Chester Rustin coach Keith Cochran has been waiting all season to see his two big men — Jake Nelson and Taj Asparagus — dominate the opposition on the backboard on the same night.

Tuesday night, Cochran got his wish as the pair led the Golden Knights in scoring and rebounding, helping the the seventh-seeded Golden Knights advanced to the second round of the District 1 Class 5A playoffs with an opening round win over Upper Perkiomen, 63-44.

West Chester Rustin (15-9) will play Saturday against the winner of Wednesday’s West Chester East at Bishop Shanahan game. The Knights would play at Shanahan, but would host West Chester East.

The Golden Knights started fast and shot a red hot 12 for 23 from the field in the first half to take a 29-22 lead over the 10th-seeded Indians (15-9) at halftime. Upper Perkiomen was kept in the game by Liam Boyle’s four 3-pointers in the second period. But Rustin did not allow Boyle another 3-pointer the rest of the game and the Indians’ senior ended with a game-high 19 points after seven second half free throws.

The big story was the duo of Nelson and Asparagus.

Nelson led the Golden Knights with 16 points to go along with 13 boards, while Asparagus added 13 points and 10 boards, something Indians coach Jared Krupp lamented after the contest.

“Both their big guys are very good,” Krupp said. “Jake is a physical player while Taj is more of a finesse player so it makes it hard to defend them. We tried to double Jake but those two really hurt us on the boards and that is something we are usually very good at.”

Rustin had a seven-point halftime lead, but the Indians scored eight of the first nine points in the third quarter, and when Ryan Kendra hit a jumper it was suddenly a 30-30 game and the home crowd at Rustin could feel the nerves.

Cochran called a timeout and the Golden Knights exploded through the rest of the third quarter to take a 44-36 lead.

“Coach told us to just keep working and fighting,” Nelson said. “My teammates got me the ball down low tonight and they made some great cuts. We do everything as a team. We are all here together.”

But Upper Perkiomen would not go away. A Kendra jumper drew the Indians to within six at 44-38 with 5:45 to play in the fourth quarter, but the Golden Knights went back to their bread and butter and Drew Hickson hit Asparagus underneath for a 46-38 lead. Jon Brown went strong to the hole for the Indians to make it a 46-40 game, but Rustin turned on the jets after that.

Hickson hit the second of his two 3-pointers before and Nelson hit two free throws, and Asparagus rolled to the hoop for a layup. With that, Upper Perkiomen’s comeback was halted, and the Golden Knights were already looking ahead to the second round.

“When it was 30-30, coach told us to keep running our stuff,” Hickson said. “And he likes me to shoot the three because it opens things up inside for Jake and Taj.”

Rustin shot a hot 22 for 45 from the field and outscored Upper Perk 19-8 in the final quarter, which saw the Indians shoot just two for 13 from the field. Cochran was happy with the play of his two big men.

“They both had good games and we have been waiting for that,” Cochran said. “They just need to play solid basketball and be leaders for the other guys on the team. When it was tied at 30-30 I just told the kids that we have to keep fighting to keep our season alive and we made some good defensive moves in the second half to stop their shooters.”

West Chester Rustin 63, Upper Perkiomen 44
UPPER PERKIOMEN (44): Boyle 4 7-8 19, Kendra 6 4-5 16, Keyser 11 0-1 2, Brown 1 0-1 2, Walker 2 0-0 5, Duke 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 11-15 44.
WC RUSTIN (63): Nelson 4 7-9 16, Asparagus 6 1-7 13, Pew 3 3-4 9, Laserma 1 0-0 2, DeMarco 3 1-2 7, Barrouk 1 1-2 4, Batchelor 2 2-2 6, Hickson 2 0-0 6. Totals 22 15-26 63.
Upper Perkiomen 4 18 14 8 – 44
West Chester Rustin 15 14 15 19 – 63
3-point goals: Boyle 4, Walker, Barrouk, Hickson 2, Nelson.

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