WEST GOSHEN—It’s never easy to have to play a team multiple times in a season. Tuesday night at West Chester East High School, Unionville and Rustin went at it for the fourth time. But there was never more on the line than this time around, when the winner moved on to the Elite Eight in PIAA Class 5A, while the season came to an end for the loser.
Behind some stingy early defense and three players in double digit scoring, Unionville evened the season series at two games apiece, crafting a 61-49 victory over the Golden Knights.
Up next for the Indians comes Friday against another familiar foe, West Chester East, who squeaked past Pottsville 38-35 in a low scoring affair. The site and time is to be determined.
“We finally put together a complete game against them and played the kind of game we wanted to play,” said Unionville’s Bryce Whitlock. “It is great to know that we’re moving on to state quarterfinals, and we’re looking forward to another shot at West Chester East.”
The Indians never trailed in the game, in no small part to some tough defense in the early going while its offense began to find a groove. While the Knights’ big man, Jacob Barksdale, finished with 16 points on the night, he put up a goose egg in the final stanza.
“It’s fun to play against (Barskdale),” said Unionville’s own big man, Logan Shanahan. “We know he is going to get his points and some blocks. But offensively, I know I can get shots off on him if I spin. He’s big but I have a little length and quickness on him. On defense last time, we let him get the ball too easily, so we tried to shut down the opportunities to get it to him.”
Shanahan led a trio of Indians to double digits, dropping in 16 points on the night, including a pair of three-pointer and a perfect 5-for-5 performance from the foul line. Whitlock was next in line, chipping in with 12 pints from the field and 2-of-4 from the line. Sean Neylon rounded out the list with 10 points, all over the final three periods.
The Indians were a little slow to get going again coming out of the break, and Barksdale took advantage to pull Rustin back in the game. Rustin came out of the break on a 7-2 run, and tied the game at 22-22 a little over two minutes into the third.
But Unionville shrugged it off, and answered back with an 8-0 run of their own, and rarely saw the cushion dip below the eight-point mark the rest of the way.
“We felt good about the urgency and execution we had on defense tonight,” said Uninville coach Chris Cowles. “This may not have been the technically best defensive game of the four against them, but there was a great sense of urgency and that is a credit to the players.”
For Rustin, the season comes to a close with a record of 18-8.
“My kids gave me everything they had all season, including tonight, and that’s all you can ask,” said Rustin coach Keith Cochran. “We did start a little slow, and against a team like that, if you get down early, it is going to be a fight all night. Unionville did some good things on defense, and we didn’t respond the way we needed to. Hopefully the younger guys will hit the gym and put the work in, and hopefully take it a few steps further next year.”