Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)
Rustin closes out Upper Dublin
West Chester Rustin took the lead on the first possession of the fourth quarter and never gave it back.
Fittingly, the Golden Knights turned a one-point deficit into a one-point lead with a pair of free throws from Matt Nochumson with 7:22 left in their District 1-5A first-round matchup against Upper Dublin.
Rustin went 15-for-20 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and made enough defensive stops to leave Upper Dublin High School with a 58-51 win Friday night.
“We’ve had a rough season,”
Rustin senior Tyler Giunta said. “We’ve had ups and downs. We’ve had a tough schedule compared to other teams in our league and we have a tough schedule for a reason. Other teams in our league play nobody. When it comes playoff time we’re ready. We were the 12 seed playing the five, but honestly we didn’t even look at the seeds. Everyone is 0-0 in the playoffs. We came in here and executed. We made our foul shots at the end of the game and everything worked out for us.”
Ryan Jaross went 4-for-4 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter while Jake Crispino was 4-for-5, Giunta 3-for-4, Nochumson 2-for-2 and Ian Schlesinger 2-for-4.
“There have been games where we struggled from the foul line,” Giunta said, “but I feel like towards the end of the season we really made a lot of our foul shots. We have guys that just have ice in their veins, like Ryan Jaross came off the bench and was 4-for4, swished all of them. That’s just what we do.”
After fifth-seeded Upper Dublin missed its first three shots of the fourth quarter, Crispino and Chase Hatton made baskets to give No. 12 Rustin a 43-38 lead with 5:27 remaining. The Cardinals got within 43-42 after Griffin Pensabene and DJ Cerisier split free throws and Ryan Mulroy made a layup, but the one-point
deficit was as close as they’d get the rest of the way.
Three empty Cardinals possessions came after Crispino, Giunta and Jaross went a combined 6-for-6 from the line. Giunta split his next trip to the foul line for a 7-0 run and 50-42 lead with 2:02 on the clock.
“We have a big group of seniors and it’s honestly we didn’t want to go home tonight,” Giunta said. “I feel like we wanted it more than they did. We prepared all week for them. We knew personnel, we knew what we needed to do. We executed. We got stops.”
Mulroy hit a three to make it 50-45 and the Cardinals defense forced a turnover and got two missed Rustin free throws on back-to-back possessions. They were unable to capitalize, missing shots on the offensive end.
“It was a very tough shooting night,” Upper Dublin coach Derek Brooks said. “Part of that I think sometimes is it’s the playoffs, it’s the moment, it’s the nerves, it’s, ‘Oh man we really need one to go here’ and it just builds. Unfortunately sometimes you have off shooting nights and this was one of those nights. I think we could have done a better job really working the ball to get some better shots. I think some guys were pressing, ‘Oh I have
to get one here’ instead of really, really working it and getting a clean look. Sometimes that happens in moments like this, though.”
Jaross sunk two free throws to get the margin up to seven, 52-45, but Upper Dublin’s Colin O’Sullivan answered with a three to make it a four-point game, 52-48, with under a minute left.
Giunta made the play of the game on the ensuing possession. His teammate was trapped between defenders right in front of the scorers table and lofted a pass to Giunta in the middle of the court. Two Upper Dublin defenders were in position for a steal and likely breakaway layup at the other end, but Giunta skied into the air, grabbed the ball and found Crispino all alone under the basket for a layup and 54-48 lead with 25.8 seconds left.
“I knew it was going to be a lob so I knew I had to jump to the ball,” Giunta said. “I just kind of rose up, caught it and spun. It just happened in the moment. I wasn’t really planning on doing anything specific, it just happened. I saw Jake under the basket wide open. I hit him and he made it.”
O’Sullivan answered with a three, his third of the night, to make it a one-score game. The Cardinals thought they got a turnover on the next possession but were whistled for a foul. Crispino hit both free throws to make it 56-51 with 13 seconds left and all
but seal the game.
The teams played a backand-forth first half. Rustin led by three, 14-11, after the first quarter and Upper Dublin led by two, 27-25, at the half. The Cardinals scored the first two baskets after halftime for their largest lead of the night, 31-25, but Rustin responded with a 12-2 run to move ahead, 37-33. O’Sullivan hit a three late in third to send the Cardinals to the fourth ahead by one, 38-37.
Nochumson led Rustin with 13 points while Giunta added 11 and Schlesinger had nine.
Mulroy led the Cardinals with a game-high 17 points. Pensabene added 10 and O’Sullivan had nine.
Rustin advances to the quarterfinals, where it will face No. 4 West Chester East Wednesday.
“East is our biggest rival,” Giunta said. “Us seniors, we’ve played East our whole career and we never beat them. This could be the biggest moment in our career. We want this more than anything and it’s a great matchup for us.”
Upper Dublin’s season ends with the loss. The Cardinals finished with an 18-7 record.
“I look at it in three parts,” Brooks said of his first season at UD. “Before we get everybody back (from football), it’s a lot of uncertainty. I barely got to meet a lot of the guys. I thought we had a good start despite not having
all of those guys. Then we get everybody back — we lose to Abington, we lose to PW — but then we get everybody on the same page and win 13 straight. Going into this we won 15 of 17. We had six losses going into this game — five of them were to teams with 20 wins and the other loss was to Abington, who just advanced to the second round (of District 1-6A).
“I’m very proud of what we did in the regular season. Obviously this was not how we wanted to end it to say the least. It’s very, very disappointing, bittersweet. I love every single kid that we coached. Those seniors, they re-established this program… These guys have taken it and gone 17 wins and 18 wins in back-to-back years. I don’t know when the last time was that happened for (Upper Dubin). A lot of them are twosport athletes. They have to be one of the best athletic classes in this school’s history. They should be very proud of themselves.”