EAST MARLBOROUGH >> An early lead for West Chester Rustin seemed like it would be more than enough in a key Ches-Mont League boys basketball tilt Thursday night.
It ended up being enough for the Golden Knights … but just barely.
The Ches-Mont American Division-leading Rustin boys built a big cushion, then withstood a stern challenge from the host Longhorns to remain undefeated in the American with a 62-53 win.
For West Chester Rustin (5-0 Ches-Mont American, 5-2 overall), Hofstra commit Griffin Barrouk led the way with 25 points and six rebounds. When Unionville (1-5, 3-5) cut the lead to two points in the fourth quarter, Barrouk bailed out the Golden Knights with a big eight-point outburst down the stretch.
“When it got close I knew I wanted the ball because I had the hot hand,” Barrouk said. “I knew they were in pretty bad foul trouble so I just wanted to go the basket and get body contact and go to the foul line. This was a real good tough win for us tonight.”
The Golden Knights jetted out to a big 34-19 halftime lead on a very hot first half, shooting 11 for 18 from the field. Jacob Barksdale, who had 13 points and eight rebounds, was scoring inside, and Mike Miller, who chipped in with 15 points, drained three 3-pointers on the night. From there, it looked like the Golden Knights would be home free. West Chester Rustin drained eight 3-pointers on the night.
But, Unionville came out and outscored Rustin, 15-10, in the third quarter, and the Golden Knights’ lead was down to 44-34 after three quarters. Kevin Nowosiat had a big game for the Longhorns, as he drained four 3-pointers and led Unionville with 22 points.
But it was the fourth quarter that got dicey for the front-running Golden Knights. West Chester Rustin had 14 turnovers on the night and three of those untimely miscues led to Unionville buckets. When Jack Casten drained a corner three, the Golden Knights’ lead was down to 44-42 and Rustin’s big margin looked very shaky.
“I could have called a timeout there but I decided to let the kids play through it,” said West Chester Rustin coach Keith Cochran. “I have a young team in terms of playing experience and sometimes you call timeout and the kids get nervous. I decided to just let someone make a basketball play.”
After Barrouk drained two free throws to give the Golden Knights a 51-46 lead with 3:41 to play in the fourth quarter, Unionville’s Nowosiat scored on a follow to make it a 51-48 game. Barrouk then went strong to the basket two straight times down the floor, and the Golden Knights’ lead ballooned to 55-48, and the Longhorns were up against the wall with 2:23 to play.
“It is really a nice thing to have your best player be your hardest worker and nine out of 10 times he is going to make the right decision,” Cochran said. “And give Unionville and coach (Chris) Cowles credit. It is great to see what a good coach he has become.”
Unionville misfired three straight times down the floor and the Golden Knights went four for four at the free throw line, and the Longhorns’ comeback bid fell short, keeping Rustin’s undefeated division record intact.
“We got a little careless when we got the big lead and started playing sloppy basketball,” Barrouk said. “It was partly their pressure but a lot of it was us being careless and we got things back in time.”
West Chester Rustin 62, Unionville 53
WC RUSTIN (63): Barrouk 8 6-7 25, Barksdale 6 1-3 13, Miller 4 4-4 15, Shivers 2 0-0 6, Reinheimer 0 1-2 1, Sproul 1 0-0 2, Chobani 0 0-0 0, Sleschinger 0 0-0 0, Giunta 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 12-16 62.
UNIONVILLE (53): Nowosiat 7 4-4 22, Regenye 2 0-0 4, Banjanee 0 0-0 0, Carello 3 0-0 8, Kammeier 1 0-1 2, Casten 2 0-0 6, Lenkatis 3 2-2 8, Tayoun 1 0-0 3, Butler 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 6-7 53.
WC Rustin 12 22 10 18 – 62
Unionville 3 16 15 19 – 53
3-point goals: Barrouk 3, Miller 3, Shivers 2, Carello 2, Casten 2, Nowostait 4, Tayoun.