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West Chester Rustin cruises past shorthanded Oxford

EAST NOTTINGHAM >> The realities of trying to play basketball during a global pandemic was on full display Tuesday during a Ches-Mont American boys’ clash at Oxford.

The host Hornets were without seven varsity players and visiting West Chester Rustin took full advantage, cruising to a 59-41 triumph for the program’s first league win of the season.

“We knew (Oxford was) shorthanded, but we tried to take the same approach as any other game,” said junior forward Ian Schlesinger, who came off the bench to lead all scorers with a career-high 18 points.

Now 1-2 in the Ches-Mont (5-7 overall), the Golden Knights used pressure defense to force the Hornets into uncomfortable situations and it yielded 24 turnovers. Rustin also knocked down seven 3-pointers, which overshadowed the fact that the Knights were outscored 15-2 at the free throw line.

“That’s been a problem all season – we just don’t get to the line enough or shoot many free throws,” said Rustin’s Vince Mostardi, who is in his first year replacing longtime head coach Keith Cochran. “That can keep teams alive.”

Oxford’s first-year head coach Dan Hoff was not only without two starters, but most of his bench. He had to dip into the junior varsity ranks to fill out the roster, and wound up playing a half dozen players who were making their varsity debut.

“(Monday) at practice, we weren’t sure who would be available,” he said. “So for us to come out here are play, and hang tough with a team like Rustin, is a testament to how hard our guys are working.

“Our three seniors (Jaden Hager, Barry Bower and Connor Booth) were available, which is huge because they really helped keep things together tonight. I have to give our guys a lot of credit. We had freshmen out there and they played hard.”

Understandably, the JV contest was cancelled due to a lack of available players. And even though it’s been a difficult and uncertain time, Hoff found a bright spot.

“Everyone is going through the COVID stuff, so you just have to go with the ‘next man up’ mentality,” he said. “I think what gets lost in all of this is how resilient these guys are – all of the high school kids right now. They don’t pout, they just come ready to work and support their teammates.

“It is good to see.”

The Hornets (0-4, 2-7) hung tough early, but a 3-pointer from about 40-feet at the buzzer by junior Sam Sproull ended the first quarter, and spurred the Knights, who promptly reeled off 14 of the next 16 points to take command. Ryan Jaross and Schlesinger each knocked down 3’s during the run.

“That was a momentum swing and helped us jump out in the second quarter,” Mostardi said.

“Rustin is a great program. They are what we are trying to become: a playoff team,” Hoff added. “That kind of a shot tends to go in when you are playing hard like they do.”

In the second quarter, the Knights’ pressure defense forced eight turnovers and limited Oxford to a single bucket, and the lead ballooned to 31-17 at the half.

“Once we started putting the pressure on them, it helped a lot in getting into our offense,” Schlesinger said.

“Our defense sets our offense up and keeps us going,” Mostardi added. “If we are not making stops, our offense can get flat.”

Rustin experienced some turnover issues of its own in the second half, but Schlesinger scored 13 of his points to help the Knights close it out. Sproull finished with 13 points.

“Ian’s been our guy off the bench all season,” Mostardi said. “He can score from all areas of the court.

“It wasn’t the kind of win I wanted, where we come out and take control from the jump. Oxford kind of hung around. We struggled with some turnovers tonight, and those happen. Our main thing is to control the ball and the tempo of the game.

“If we want to get out to leads and then hold those leads, we need to get out and run but also take care of the ball.”

Hager and Booth poured in 15 and 14 points, respectively, for the Hornets. But the turnovers and easy buckets at the other end were very difficult to overcome.

“You are kind of learning on the fly as a freshman in this type of game,” he said.


West Chester Rustin 59, Oxford 41

West Chester Rustin                                  19   12 10 18 — 59

Oxford                                                           14 3 8 16 — 41

W.C. RUSTIN – Guinta 3 0-0 7; Nochumson 2 0-0 5; Seelaus 1 0-0 2; Sproull 5 1-1 13; Jaross 2 0-0 5; C. Hatton 3 0-0 7; Schlesinger 8 1-2 18; Misciochowski 1 0-0 2. Totals 25 2-3 59.

OXFORD – Hager 4 7-11 15; Brower 2 2-4 6; Booth 6 2-2 14; Rozich 0 4-7 4; Roberts 1 0-0 2. Totals 13 15-24 41.

3-pointers: Guinta, Nochumson, Sproull 2, Jaross, C. Hatton, Schlesinger.


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