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Chobany fuels Rustin

WESTTOWN — West Chester Rustin senior Andrew Chobany is unequivocally one of the best players in the Ches-Mont League.

So to see the Golden Knights’ star forward pass up a wide-open layup with two minutes to play in a tight game may have seemed surprising — even a missed opportunity —to the untrained eye. To head coach Keith Cochran, it was a microcosm of what makes Chobany so special.

“That was a winning play,’ Cochran said. “He’s a leader, and he makes the right decisions at the right time. That’s what I expect from a leader and a captain.’

Chobany made plenty of winning plays down the stretch — and otherwise — as the Golden Knights held off visiting Unionville for a 50-42 triumph in a critical Tuesday night Ches-

Mont League American Division contest. He finished with a game-high 22 points and got plenty of help from fellow senior Mike McKnight, who contributed 12 points off the bench to keep Rustin (5-5, 4-1) in the American Division driver’s seat.

“We just wanted it,’ Cochran said. “Our kids dug deep.’

No one wanted it more than Chobany. On a night in which neither team led by more than five until well into the fourth quarter, the Knights’ do-everything forward willed his squad to the finish line.

Trailing 35-34 entering the final frame, Chobany helped Rustin start the period on a 5-0 run, finding a cutting Tyler Blake for a lay-in before drilling a three-pointer in transition, giving the Knights a 39-35 advantage with 7:15 to play. The Indians cut the deficit to one, but Chobany capped a 6-0 spurt with a bucket, making it 45-38 with 2:38 remaining.

After a three-pointer by Unionville junior Drew Menninger, Chobany put his stamp on crunch time.

With two minutes left and Rustin clinging to a 45-41 edge, he passed on a sure layup in favor of bringing the ball back out. With Unionville scrambling and having three fouls to give, the Knights were able to run off almost a minute of clock before the Indians put them on the free-throw line.

“The idea was just to run off some more clock,’ Chobany said. “We were up, so why not run clock? We didn’t need anything more.’

Chobany was far from finished. He corralled a tough rebound in traffic on a missed free throw with 1:00 to play and, after a turnover, came up with a steal on the ensuing possession. Chobany knocked down both free throws with 36 ticks left to stifle the Indians’ comeback hopes.

“We had some confidence at the end,’ he said. “Obviously I want the ball in my hands, and I tried to get it as much as possible. I trust my teammates to make plays, too.’

And they did. Blake finished with six points and seven rebounds, and his put-back with 5:25 left gave Rustin a 41-38 lead. McKnight, meanwhile, was all over the floor, adding four rebounds and two assists to his dozen critical markers, seven of them coming in the second quarter. Brennan Halvorsen had three rebounds and three blocks in an active first half down low.

“They have a role on this team, and they’re starting to understand what it means to us and the program,’ Cochran said of Chobany’s supporting cast. “Mike McKnight is a tough kid. He gives me everything out on the floor.’

Senior guard Alex Pechin led the way with 12 points for the Indians (6-5, 2-2), who took a lead into the fourth quarter but were unable to get over the hump.

“We missed some shots that we should have had, and we had some costly turnovers,’ Unionville coach Joe Kilpatrick said. “In this league, no one is going to give anything to you.’

Menninger connected on a trio of triples, two of them coming on consecutive third-quarter possessions, part of an 8-2 run to close the period. Atma Berry had seven points, five rebounds, and three steals, while Jimmy Nowoswiat paired six points with a game-high 10 boards. Ultimately, Chobany was too much as Unionville’s three-game winning streak came to a close.

“Coming on the road here was a great test for us,’ Kilpatrick said. “I have to tip my hat to Rustin; they executed down the stretch and we didn’t. We’re trying to get over the hump to be one of the elite teams in the Ches-Mont, and I think we’re right there — we just need to do the little things.’

Unionville scored the game’s first five points before Chobany responded with a personal 7-0 run, setting off a half that featured three ties and seven lead changes and ended with Rustin ahead 25-24. Chobany had a hand in the Knights’ first 18 points, scoring 13 of his own and assisting on two other buckets. He finished with four rebounds and three assists.

With a slim lead over Octorara (10-1, 3-1) and several other schools in the race for a league title, Rustin appears to be trending upward at the ideal time. Adding to their confidence, the Knights handed second-place Octorara its only loss of the season, a 72-59 decision on the Braves’ home floor on December 22.

“We want to be in contention for the league, but our goals are bigger than that,’ Cochran said. “I think we’re going in the right direction.’

“We’re only going to get better,’ Chobany added. “I’m confident in where we’re going.’

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