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Rustin holds off Oxford, denying Hornets first win

EAST NOTTINGHAM >> Many lessons were learned during Tuesday’s Ches-Mont American boys’ basketball contest between West Chester Rustin and Oxford. But the visiting Golden Knights got the ‘W,’ which is the optimal way for any team to emerge from such a test.

Rustin got off to a discouraging start and nearly blew a 13-point second half lead. But the Knights also did what they had to do in the waning minutes to avoid the upset and secure a hard-earned 50-43 triumph over the still winless Hornets.

“We learned that regardless the opponents’ record, you have to treat them all the same,” said senior forward Ian Schlesinger. “We can’t come out like that regardless who we are playing.”

Now 3-1 in the division (6-7 overall), Rustin’s won three of the last four. Oxford falls to 0-4, 0-7.

“This group has had a rough high school career but they are starting to come together,” said first-year head coach Jacob Gray, who played for the Hornets from 2002-04. “It’s a work in progress. We are not happy with the record, but we talk in film sessions and (our players) can see the progress.”

Seemingly cruising with a 40-27 lead midway through the third quarter, the Knights surrendered a 13-0 Oxford rally that tied the score, 40-40. Seniors Matt Boyle and Jaden Morales scored every point in the run for the Hornets.

“That showed the character this team has. They buckled down and tried to grind it out,” Gray said.

“Credit to Oxford,” Schlesinger added. “They may not have any wins yet, but they are going to get some. They are fighters.”

Following a pair of 3-pointers by Rustin sophomore Chase Hatton, the game came to halt with just under five minutes remaining. Oxford was unwilling to come out of its zone defense despite trailing by four, so the Knights dribbled away nearly three minutes of clock.

“We wanted to spread out the floor and see if they would play us man-to-man,” Rustin head coach Vince Mostardi explained. “I was surprised they didn’t. We were up by four and we were struggling to score, and I wanted to make them play some defense and I didn’t want to waste a possession.”

The Hornets finally abandoned the zone with two minutes left in regulation, and the Knights then turned it over. A free throw by Morales cut it to 46-43 with 1:24 to go, and Oxford forced another turnover. But Aiden Kane’s subsequent shot did not fall, and Schlesinger buried two free throws at the other end with 17.5 on the clock.

The Hornets had a turnover and a miss on their final two possessions, and Rustin’s Tyler Giunta added two more from the line to close it out.

“We are coming off a real tough week against some good teams and I knew that Oxford would come out ready to go — and they played well,” Mostardi said. “They are going to win some games this season and they gave us a run for our money.

“I expected us to have a little bit of a letdown with the long ride out here. But at the end of the day, (Oxford) outplayed us for most of the game, so we were lucky to get the win.”

Schlesinger and Hatton paced the Knights with 11 points apiece. Boyle (23) and Morales (16) wound up scoring all but four points for the Hornets.

“Rustin is a tough team,” Gray said. “I am disappointed with the loss, but I am also proud of my guys.”

The Hornets got off to a nice start and led by as much as six early. But the Knights broke out of an early funk and grabbed the lead by ending the first half with a 19-7 run to make it 29-23. Rustin knocked down six 3-pointers in the half against Oxford’s zone, but the visitors were more efficient in the second quarter.

“We just didn’t come ready to play,” Schlesinger said. “(Oxford) kind of stunned us – they hit some shots and we were stagnant. We needed to attack more and get out in transition instead of settling for 3’s.

“A win is a win. It wasn’t exactly the way we wanted to so it but it’s still a big one for us. It wasn’t pretty, but good teams win game no matter what the circumstances.”

West Chester Rustin 50, Oxford 43

W.C. Rustin                          13 16 14 7 — 50

Oxford                                   16 7 17 3 — 43

W.C. RUSTIN – Hasson 1 0-2 3; Giunta 1 2-2 4; Sproull 2 0-0 4; Schlesinger 4 2-2 11; Nochumson 3 1-2 8; Jarouss 2 0-0 6; Malley 1 0-0 3; Hatton 3 2-2 11. Totals 17 7-10 50.

OXFORD – Boyle 8 5-6 23; Kane 0 2-2 2; Overbeck 1 0-0 2; Morales 6 1-2 16. Totals 15 8-10 43.

Three-pointers: Hasson, Schlesinger, Nochumson, Jarouss 2, Malley, Hatton 3, Boyle 2, Morales 3.


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