LEESPORT >> “They were seven points better than us,” said Bethlehem Catholic coach Jose Medina said.
But, that statement only does partial justice to the high-tempo, exciting PIAA 5A Girls Basketball quarterfinal at Schuylkill Valley High School on Saturday afternoon.
In a game that was equal parts scrappy and sloppy, West Chester Rustin used a 13-1 second-quarter run to take the lead for good en route to a 47-40 victory over the Golden Hawks for a semifinal berth against the third-place team from District 12, Archbishop Wood, who were 52-29 winners over Bishop Shanahan, on Tuesday at neutral site to be determined.
“It feels awesome,” said Rustin coach Lauren Stackhouse on being part of the final four. “I keep saying I just want to keep with this group for as long as I can.”
“It’s crazy,” added Elizabeth McGurk. “I’ve never made it this far in any sport in my life. But, I did expect us to make it this far. We’re really excited. I’m really proud of everyone on the team for staying focused this long because it’s hard — 4 1/2 months of basketball — so everyone is staying focused.”
The Golden Knights improved to 27-3 with their 16th straight victory. They haven’t lost since Jan. 15, a defeat against Archbishop Carroll, who are in the semifinals in 6A.
Stackhouse knew that the Golden Hawks were going to provide an especially difficult challenge, and they didn’t disappoint.
“They are a fantastic team,” Stackhouse said. “They have length, they have a fantastic point guard and they are well coached. We knew it would be a tough game. We definitely did not come in here thinking that it was going to be easy. We knew we had to elevate our game to match what they bring to the floor.”
The game was tied four times in the first quarter. But, the Golden Knights went cold and a 9-2 run over the first and second quarters helped BC to enjoy a little separation.
Bethlehem Catholic held a 21-16 lead in the second quarter, before Rustin went on a 13-1 run in the final five minutes of the second to take a 29-22 lead into the break. Ava Panetta hit a short pull-up jumper with 3:35 left to end an almost eight-minute field goal drought. Baskets from Elizabeth McGurk and Riley Stackhouse and a free throw from Kailey Barry closed out the quarter for the Knights.
“The pace was a little quicker than what we wanted,” said Medina. “Giving up 29 points wasn’t a good thing. We made some adjustments and gave up 18 in the second half.”
Both teams used high pressure, player-to-player defense to help the other into mistakes. There were 15 turnovers combined in the first half.
“We were playing at a really fast pace. We were both intense, very physical. We had to slow ourselves down in the fourth quarter to manage the lead,” said Stackhouse.
The lead held sway for Rustin through most of the third. A two by Akasha Santos and a three from Ella Bincarosky cut that deficit to 33-32, before a Laine McGurk basket gave the Knights a 35-32 lead heading into the fourth.
The Hawks couldn’t get much of a run going in the final stanza, shooting 3-for-15, as they couldn’t get any closer than four points.
Following a timeout, Laine McGurk sprinted down the court and Elizabeth hit her with a baseball pass for a basket with 38 seconds left to put the finishing touches on its win.
The sisters powered the scoring for the Golden Knights, both notching 14 points, though Laine struggled from the floor.
“Those sisters were tough,” said Medina. “The left-hander (Elizabeth) hurt us in the first half. We made an adjustment, then the other one hit some big shots.”
Santos led the Golden Hawks with 12 points. Kendra Rigo and Bincarosky added eight points each.
West Chester Rustin 47, Bethlehem Catholic 40
Bethlehem Catholic: Santos 5 1-2 12; Colon 0 0-0 0; Brill 0 0-0 0; Fernandez 2 0-0 5; Hernandez 1 4-5 6; Nickischer 0 1-2 1; Bincarosky 2 3-6 8; Rigo 3 0-0 8. Totals: 13 9-15 40.
West Chester Rustin: Kraft 0 0-0 0; Panetta 4 0-0 8; Flynn 2 3-4 7; Boczkowski 0 0-0 0; E. McGurk 3 8-10 14; L. McGurk 6 2-3 14; Barry 0 1-2 1; Stackhouse 1 1-2 3. Totals: 16 15-21 47
Bethlehem Catholic 15 7 10 8 — 40
West Chester Rustin 14 15 6 12 — 47
3-point goals: Rigo 2, Santos, Fernandez, Bincarosky.
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