WEST CHESTER >> Just 48 hours after enduring an overtime loss, its first of the season in league play, the Downingtown West boys basketball team took out a little frustration on Saturday in the semifinals of the Ches-Mont Playoffs.
Thanks largely to a suffocating defensive effort, the Whippets rolled past Sun Valley 51-25 to advance to the league title game. West (17-5 overall) will take on C-M National rival West Chester East for the crown on Tuesday, 8 p.m., at West Chester’s Hollinger Field House.
”I’ve never actually tracked the fewest points we’ve allowed, but (25) is nice,” said Whippets’ head coach Stu Ross.
“We did a great job executing the game plan. We limited (Sun Valley) to one shot and that was a big difference.”
It was the first-ever appearance in the Ches-Mont Playoffs for the Vanguards (14-9), who didn’t even qualify in 2019 despite going on to win a district title and advance to the elite eight in the state.
On Saturday, D-West forced Sun Valley into 17 turnovers, and the Vanguards never reached double figures in any of the four quarters.
“We told the kids that we didn’t come here just to participate,” said Vanguards’ head coach Steve Maloney. “We had the same mindset we have for every other Ches-Mont game. Our kids handled the atmosphere, but we are a young group and this was something we can built on.
“We expect to be back here next year.”
Nursing a six-point advantage, the Whippets scored 21 of 23 points in one stretch of the second half to turn a battle into a rout. Twenty five is the Vanguard’s lowest scoring outing of the season by eight points.
“We pride ourselves on it,” D-West point guard Dylan Blair said. “Defense first, and that helps create our offense. We pushed the ball up the floor really fast, make or miss, and when we do that it puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”
The Whippets used an 11-0 second quarter spurt to open a little breathing room. D-West senior Cooper Hardin sparked the run with a 3-pointer and a free throw, and Blair had two buckets to close it out.
Leading 20-12 at the half, D-West then ended the third period with a 16-2 rally that included a couple 3-pointers by Blair and six turnovers for Sun Valley.
“I think we were forcing things a little bit,” Maloney said. “(West’s) size took over a little bit and we had difficulties with their length.”
Sun Valley junior guard Chris Kwaidah got off to a great start and scored all eight of the Vanguards’ first quarter points, but he did not score again.
“We wanted to shade our defense to (Kwaidah’s) side and make other people make plays,” Blair explained. “We did a great job of that. We identified him early and ended up taking him out of the game.”
Hardin led the way for D-West with 18 points and Blair added 16 just two days after struggling in the season ending loss to West Chester Henderson. Six-foot-11 junior center Jake Warren had an off-day offensively but he did haul down nine rebounds.
“We took that loss (to Henderson) personally, and that helped us to play even harder tonight,” Blair said.
“It’s always good to get that taste of a loss out of your mouth, but it probably ended up being a good loss for us,” Ross added. “You never want to get complacent, and we know it’s one-and-done time, so that’s enough motivation there.”
Nick Gianakopoulos notched three buckets from the floor and scored six points for Sun Valley, but nobody else managed to connect on more than two field goals.
“This was kind of a preview for the districts,” Maloney said. “I believe we are going to have a first round home game, so this game can kind of show our guys how important every possession is.”
Downingtown West 51, Sun Valley 25
Sun Valley 8 4 4 9 — 25
Downingtown West 9 11 16 15 — 51
SUN VALLEY – Harper 1 0-0 2; Glasgow 1 0-0 2; Grayston 1 1-1 3; Gianakopoulos 3 0-1 6; Richardson 2 0-1 4; Kwaidah 2 2-2 8. Totals 10 3-5 25.
DOWNINGTOWN WEST – Hardin 6 2-3 18; Blair 5 3-6 16; Zincone 1 0-2 2; Owsik 1 0-0 3; Warren 2 1-2 6; Fromhartz 1 2-2 4; Shelton 1 0-3 2. Totals 17 8-18 51.
Three pointers: Kwaidah 2, Hardin 4, Blair 3, Owsik, Warren.