Rustin tops Upper Merion; advances to district semifinals

WESTTOWN – It was far from perfect, but the West Chester Rustin girls parlayed a nice first quarter into a lead it would never surrender, on the way to a 52-35 triumph over visiting Upper Merion in the quarterfinals of the District 1 5A Basketball Tournament.

The second-seeded Golden Knights committed far too many turnovers (17) and early foul trouble to Dakiya Daniels had a ripple effect on the boards. But Rustin (22-4 overall) got a career-high 14 points from sophomore Grace Plona to advance to the district semis to play the Villa Maria-Penncrest winner on Tuesday at Harriton.

“Last year we lost in the semis, so it feels good to get another chance,” said Knights’ senior star Maggie O’Hare.

Seeded 10th, the Vikings connected on just one of their first 13 shots from the floor, fell behind by double digits and never fully recovered. Upper Merion drops into the playbacks, also to be held on Tuesday against an opponent to be determined.

“The energy wasn’t there,” said Vikings’ head coach Leah Shumoski. “This group played with energy on Tuesday but they’re not used to replicating it. A few things didn’t go our way and we just didn’t respond.”

The Vikings turned it over four times before connecting on their first field goal, and quickly fell behind 15-3 through one quarter. Becca Magrone keyed the quick start with a couple early 3-pointers for Rustin.

“We’ve been able to get off to good starts this season,” said Knights’ head coach Jim Powers.

“It gave us a little bit of a confidence boost,” O’Hare added.

Upper Merion eventually dug itself a 15-point hole before finally getting another shot to fall, and that seemed to open the floodgates. It also enabled the visitors to employ an effective three-quarter court press. The Vikings reeled off a 17-5 rally and sliced the Knights’ lead to 10 at the intermission.

“We knew they would push the tempo and try to create turnovers,” Powers said. “And we helped them with some of our turnovers. We panicked a little and made some questionable decisions.

“We struggled early with their pressure, but we settled down and fixed it. I don’t think in the second half it got to us as much.”

The Rustin defense took over in the third, limiting Upper Merion to just six points. And when Erin Gallagher scored three straight buckets driving to the hoop, Rustin’s lead widened to 39-25. The Vikings never got any closer than 10 the rest of the way.

“Upper Merion was a good team, so we had to work hard continuously in order to pull it out,” Gallagher said.

“It’s tough when you’re not making shots,” Shumoski added. “We had the looks and we did what we had to do, so it’s a shame.

“I don’t sugar-coat things. I still think we are better than (Rustin).”

Plona scored 11 of her 14 in the first half, when O’Hare and Gallagher were struggling.  O’Hare finished strong and wound up with 17 points and Gallagher chipped in 12.

“I was kind of nervous at the start, but I made it through. I feel like I’m a fill-in player, wherever they need me,” Plona said.

“Grace averages about 7-8 a game, but in the last three games, she’s scored 12, 12 and now 14,” Powers pointed out. “She is picking up the pace of play. I’m happy for her because she comes and goes to work.”

Senior forward Jordan Wilson was a force all evening for Upper Merion. She finished with 17 points, but nobody else on the Vikings managed more than a couple field goals.

“Jordan Wilson played her heart out again,” Shumoski said. “I’m disappointed for her that some of her teammates didn’t show up. It’s one of those games you’d like to rewind and get again for the kid, but you can’t do it.”

Rustin had a 23-16 scoring advantage in the second half, and some of the credit goes to Daniels, a junior. She sat out most of the first half in foul trouble but made a difference down the stretch, especially on defense and on the boards.

“Dakiya’s done a great job for us on the glass all season, even against bigger people,” Powers said. “(Upper Merion) got some offensive rebounds in the first half and that let them hang around, but she was able come back in the second half and was big for us. She doesn’t have to score to be a presence.”

West Chester Rustin 52, Upper Merion 35

UPPER MERION – Stanton 1 2-2 4; Wilson 8 1-2 17; Anthony 1 0-0 2; Parson 1 2-2 4; Harvey 2 4-7 8. Totals 13 9-13 35.

WEST CHESTER RUSTIN – Plona 5 3-6 14; Gallagher 6 0-0 12; Magrone 2 1-3 7; Daniels 1 0-1 2; O’Hare 5 5-8 17. Totals 19 10-19 52.

U. Merion 3 16 6 10 — 35

W.C. Rustin              15 14 10 13 — 52

Three-point goals: Magrone 2, O’Hare 2.




Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply