POTTSVILLE >> The ride was in danger of ending prematurely, as the West Chester Rustin girls basketball team was staring at a deficit entering the fourth quarter. Then, defense turned into offense, offense turned into points and points turned into a win and a heavy sigh of relief.
The Golden Knights outscored Abington Heights, 18-8, in the fourth to come away with a 49-46 victory in the second round of PIAA Class 5A tournament at Martz Hall on Wednesday.
Rustin (26-3) moves into Saturday’s quarterfinals against District 11 champion Bethlehem Catholic at a site and time to be announced.
“We’re excited,” said Rustin coach Lauren Stackhouse. “My heart may not be able to take much more. Credit to them.
They came out and made some big shots and we had to adjust. We went back to our press, which had been our go-to throught the season. That’s what has gotten us this far.”
Rustin held a slim 26-24 lead heading into the third quarter. They led 28-24, before the Comets made their move, going on a 12-1 over a five-minute span. Caroline Murray hit a short jumper to give AH its first lead at 29-28 with 5:47 left. Maggie Coleman hit two three-pointers to help facilitate the run.
The Comets held a 38-31 lead after three.
“We all just came together as a group,” said Laine McGurk. “During a timeout, coach Stack sat us down and said we had to stop playing selfishly and it’s going to start on defense. We came out and started pressing and getting some turnovers. Kaitlyn (Barry), Ava Panetta, Lola Flynn and Elizabeth (McGurk) were the engine.”
Rustin scored the first 10 points of the quarter, hounding the Comets into eight turnovers in the fourth. Panetta scored on the drive to put Rustin back on top, 39-38 with 5:31 to play. The lead grew to 43-38 before Madison Zalewski hit left-corner three — what turned out to be the Comets’ only field goal of the stanza.
Murray hit two free throws with a minute left to give Abington Heights a 46-45 lead.
Rustin ran the clock down until McGurk attacked the basket and score on a 15-footer to put the Golden Knights ahead, 47-46 with 15 seconds left.
“All week in practice, we’ve been running the side out of bounds play and when we were down by one, we ran the play,” said McGurk. “I cut to the basket and it was cash money.”
“She’s built for games like this,” Stackhouse said of McGurk. “She likes having the ball in her hands in these types of situations. We knew at the end we were going to her for that last shot.”
The Comets had one final chance, but as the pass went down low, McGurk knocked it away and Rustin took control.
After a timeout, McGurk broke away, gathered in the long pass and laid it in at the buzzer as the Rustin bench celebrated.
The layup put the finishing touches on a 14-point quarter for McGurk, who notched a game-high 32 points.
“I was the one making the shots, but my teammates got me there,” said McGurk.
The ride continues for the Golden Knights, who are two wins from taking the ride they really want — the trip to Hershey for the state final.
“It feels awesome,” Stackhouse said on reaching the quarterfinals. “I want to keep going for as long as we can and enjoy the ride and enjoy every minute with this awesome group of kids.”
West Chester Rustin 49, Abington Heights 46
Abington Heights: Zalewski 4 1-3 10; Murray 5 2-2 14; Walsh 0 0-0 0; K. Scoblick 1 0-0 2; Coleman 4 2-2 14; Notari 1 0-0 2; L. Scoblick 0 0-0 0; Houlihan 2 0-0 4. Totals: 17 5-7 46.
Weat Cheater Rustin: Kraft 0 0-0 0; Panetta 1 0-0 2; Flynn 2 0-1 2; E. McGurk 4 3-8 11; L. McGurk 16 0-1 32; Barry 0 0-0 0; Stackhouse 0 0-2 0. Totals: 23 3-12 46.
Abington Heights 11 13 14 8 — 46
WC Rustin 15 11 5 18 — 49
3-point goals: Coleman 4, Murray 2, Zalewski.
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