Westtown >> A few minutes after West Chester Rustin defeated Great Valley, 50-38, Thursday, improving the hosts’ Ches-Mont American Division record to 7-1, Golden Knights’ head coach Jim Powers was asked what he thought has been the biggest key to Rustin’s success.
“Five,” responded Powers. “Five kids playing defense together, because of our lack of size. So everybody’s on the glass, everybody’s boxing out. The second half of the year, our kids have bought in and have figured that if they play defense together, they’ll be successful.”
With the victory, Rustin stands just a half-game behind first-place Kennett (8-1) in the Ches-Mont American Division.
“This was a win we needed,” said Powers. “Our players fought hard, and Great Valley (5-3 in the Ches-Mont American Division) played a great game. It was a fun game.”
Great Valley grabbed a 12-6 lead by the end of the first quarter, thanks to its own strong defense.
“We were able to get back on defense in the first quarter; a lot of our points came in transition,” said Great Valley head coach Alex Venarchik. “In the second, third, fourth quarter, we weren’t able to cause those turnovers that were allowing us to get out in transition.”
In the second quarter, the Golden Knights switched from a pressure defense to their more customary 3-2 defense, and held Great Valley scoreless for the first six minutes of the second quarter.
“We settled in to our 3-2 defense in the second quarter, moved our feet, rebounded the basketball, and were able to keep Great Valley under control,” said Powers. “We were more active in the second quarter.”
Magrone, who is averaging more than a dozen points per game (and had three treys in the first half), said, “We took control in the second quarter. I think we fought hard and played as a team – Grace [Plona], Laney [Costin], Liv [Gatto] and Dakiya [Daniels].”
Rustin spread its offense among five players during its 17-3 second-quarter spurt, as Magrone, Daniels, Costin and sophomores Julie DiCampli and Gracy Shivers all entered the scoring column.
“In our last few games, our scoring has really been spread around, each of our kids are getting eight, nine points,” said Powers. “We’re trying to generate our offense from our team defense.”
Venarchik said, “We’ve been defending well this season, but Rustin does a great job of spacing the floor. You’ve got to help out on Daniels penetrating the lane, and she’s got enough vision to kick it out, and they’ve got good shooters out on the perimeter. So it’s a tough thing for us to do; stop penetration then sprint out and cover jump shots, and Rustin was making their shots, so it was an uphill battle tonight.”
In the third quarter, Peduto began to hit from the outside (she finished with a game-high 16 points, which included three treys), and by the end of the period Rustin’s lead was cut to 31-27.
Rustin roared back in the fourth quarter, going on an early 8-0 run for a 39-27 lead. Daniels twice drove inside heavy traffic to score underneath, and Magrone hit four consecutive free throws soon after making a key steal.
“Becca’s really been active on the defensive end, been getting her hands on the basketball,” said Powers of Magrone, who is averaging more than two steals per game this season.
The Golden Knights were also holding their own on the defensive glass, coming up with key rebounds after missed Great Valley shots.
“Dakiya [Daniels] and Laney [Costin] have been our two biggest rebounders this season,” said Powers. “They’ve really done a good job on the glass for us.”
Daniels said, “We kept battling on defense and didn’t let down until the game was over.”
Meanwhile, Shivers knocked down a pair of threes from the left corner, and the hosts held a 47-33 lead with two minutes left. Rustin finished the night with seven treys.
For Great Valley, Peduto finished with a game-high 16 points, and Tessa Liberatoscioli tallied 13 points and grabbed a number of key rebounds.
“Tessa’s a slasher, she can get to the basket,” said Venarchik, of his junior double-digit scorer. “She’s tenacious on the boards, she doesn’t quit. She’s athletic enough that when she gets the ball on the offensive end in the half-court set, she can get to the basket. She’s going to be a tough matchup for other teams. We’re relying on her a lot, a lot on [double-digit scorer] Katie Peduto. And we have a nice complimentary group behind them.
“Rustin’s a heck of a team, but we feel we can take this loss and learn that we can play better, because to us, this was a playoff game. When you’re playing a game with playoff implications on the road, you have to play your best; everyone has to be focused and giving their best effort, and that’s what we learned tonight. Hopefully, this will pay dividends when we play Pottsgrove Saturday, then when we’re on the road next week with Unionville and Oxford.”
West Chester Rustin 50, Great Valley 38
Great Valley 12 3 12 11 – 38
W.C. Rustin 6 17 8 19 – 50
Great Valley (38): Porreca 0 0-0 0, Liberatoscioli 6 1-2 13, Peduto 6 1-3 16, Sullivan 0 4-4 4, E. DeRobertis 0 1-2 1, E. DeRobertis 2 0-0 4, Heins 0 0-0 0, Valyo 0 0-0 0, Totals 14 7-11 38.
West Chester Rustin (50): Shivers 3 0-0 9, Plona 0 0-0 0, Gatto 2 0-0 5, Magrone 3 5-6 14, DiCampli 2 0-0 4, Daniels 3 5-6 11, Costin 3 1-1 7, Totals 16 11-13 50.
Three-point field goals: GV – Peduto 3, WCR – Shivers 3, Plano, Magrone 3.