Rustin’s McGurk caps off superb year by being named Player of the Year

She was one of the best players in the area as a junior. For an encore, she elevated to leading lady status and one of the top players in the state.

Laine McGurk led West Chester Rustin to the Ches-Mont League title and the Class 5A crown with an exciting style that stood all season. She caps that wildly successful season by being named the Daily Local News Girls’ Basketball All-Area Player of the Year.

“I’m proud of the season. Proud of my teammates,” said McGurk. “We got farther than a lot of people thought we would. It’s hard work paying off.”

The seed to this season was planted last year following Rustin being ousted in the district tournament. McGurk sent coach Lauren Stackhouse a picture of Temple’s Liacouras Center while she was in Philadelphia and said, ‘we’ll be here in March.’

That prophecy came true as the Golden Knights made it to the District 1 Class 5A final and won it by knocking off Villa Maria, 54-43, with McGurk leading the way with 17 points.

The title set up a run in the state playoffs all the way up to the semifinals, where it ended against eventual state champs Archbishop Wood.

“Laine is one of those players where her athleticism is just unmatched in terms of what she does on the court,” Stackhouse said. “She is able to take over a game on her own, she can create for herself. But this year, I really feel like she’s evolved her game to the point where she trusts her teammates.”

Of course, one of the teammates beside McGurk was her twin sister, Elizabeth. They’ve been with each since they were young girls, but that on-court partenership will end with Elizabeth going to St. Joseph’s to play lacrosse and Laine heading to Drexel.

“It was sad to see it end,” said Laine. “It was nothing but fun. We push each other.”

McGurk averaged over 22 points a game this season, became the school’s all-time leading scorer — boy or girl — and repeated as the Ches-Mont American Player of the Year. When shots weren’t falling, McGurk still influenced the game with her rebounding and defense and forcing team’s to pay attention to her, opening up space for players like Ava Panetta, Elizabeth McGurk and Lola Flynn.

Unionville coach Fred Ellzy spoke for every coach in the Ches-Mont.

“She’s a talented, physical player and hard to plan for,” he said. “I’m glad she’s out of the Ches-Mont.”

Stackhouse praised McGurks’s work ethic and leadership skills to help make her biggest growth in her time at Rustin.

“She works and works,” said Stckhouse. “After we lost to Wood, she took two days and was already back in the gym working on her game. She wasn’t very vocal early on, but she’s worked at it and has become a very good leader.”

One of the more impressive parts of her game is the one thing that has receded from the game: the mid-range jumper. With Rustin’s up-tempo style, McGurk pushed the ball and gave opponent’s an impossible choice. Push up on her and she will blow by you for a layup. Lay back, and she will pull up for a 12-15-foot jump shot that more than likley will find the bottom the net.

McGurk came about that skill the old fashioned way.

“Practice,” she said. “I just worked on my mid-range game all the time.”

McGurk will take her talents down the road to Drexel to play for veteran coach Amy Mallon.

“I was a big fan of the campus and the coach,” she said. “I’m excited to play there.”

The sun may be setting on McGurk’s high school career, but the passage of time will only heighten her contributions to the program and scores of girls playing basketball will aspire to perform up to or surpass the examples she has set.

“It’s nice to see the hard work pay off,” she said of winning the award. “But, I owe it all to my teammates, without them, this wouldn’t happen.”

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