Boys Basketball: Extra points from Chester-Rustin

There was plenty of time to ponder a blog post on Chester and Rustin, a game that was over really at halftime. Despite Rustin stitching together a couple of runs in the second half, they never got closer than 10 points and never seriously challenged the Clippers in a 72-56 win for the orange and black in the District One Class AAAA semifinals. A few extra points from the game:

Defense wins District One Semifinals. Just ask Rustin's Ethan Ridgeway, here getting swarmed by Chester's Jahmi Bailey, left, and Mahir Johnson. (Times Staff/ROBERT J. GURECKI)

Defense wins District One Semifinals. Just ask Rustin’s Ethan Ridgeway, here getting swarmed by Chester’s Jahmi Bailey, left, and Mahir Johnson. (Times Staff/ROBERT J. GURECKI)

– It was difficult to encapsulate in just a few hundred words how impressive Chester was. So let me give it an extra stab: Rustin drained 3-pointers, all by Andrew Chobany, on their first three possessions of the second half. That turned a 16-point deficit into 15. Chobany went off for 14 points in the third quarter, after Rustin had scored 20 in the first half. The payoff for that hard work? The deficit plummeted minus-2 points, from 16 at the half to 18 after three quarters. There was no stopping Chester Tuesday night.

– You could lump praise upon Mahir Johnson’s 29 points, Tyrell Sturdivant’s 21 and any number of other factors. But the real story was the defense. Conrad Chambers, Keyonte Watkins, and Johnson completely shut down Ethan Ridgeway (eight points on 2-for-15 shooting). The big boys in the lane – Gabe Adesina, Sturdivant and Brewster Ward – blocked 16 shots and altered countless others, doing so without much fouling. And they were also merciless in patrolling the glass. Rustin didn’t have the height to stop Chester, especially when Sturdivant played the four with Adesina in the middle. On the offensive end, there was just no way a guy like Chobany – a great shooter but 6-2 on a good day – was going to stop Sturdivant in the lane in any capacity.

– Ridgeway was always going to be the focal point of Rustin’s attack, and my thinking is this: It takes a very, very special player to beat Chester single-handedly. When that player is 5-10 and smothered in the lane time and again with no recourse, it’s never going to happen. Ridgeway is a great player, and I’ve got nothing against short guys, but the mismatch was just too pronounced for him to succeed.

– Let’s just get this out there now: If Chester is going to shoot 8-for-9 from 3-point range, no one in the state is going to beat them. It’s not just the hit percentage that is important; it’s the repercussions on the opponents’ approach. When Chester is hitting its shots, it means they aren’t forcing looks. Instead, the likes of Watkins and Khaleeq Campbell and Johnson are just taking the looks presented to them in the flow of their offense, courtesy of great ball movement and activity in the lane. When the makes come early as they did Tuesday (5-for-6 in the first half), it prevents teams from slowing the game down in the halfcourt. On a day like Tuesday, it’s almost like Chester shot their way out of the zone defense before Rustin had even thought to implement it.

– The last time I mentioned Chester’s free-throw shooting prowess, they responded with so many misses at the stripe that it almost cost them against Penn Wood. But I need to mention it again, so I’ll apologize in advance: Chester went 30-for-38 from the line Tuesday. They are shooting 72.7 percent from the line on the season, a hair more proficient than Ridley as the best in Delco. Six players are shooting better than 70 percent from the line (minimum of 30 attempts), and three are at 80 percent or better. That informs how you win by double-digits despite not scoring a field goal in the fourth quarter.

– Going into the tournament, I thought the three best teams were Chester, Abington and Pennsbury. (I also thought Penn Wood was one of the 10 best and Lower Merion was better than Conestoga, but let’s not quibble.) Two of those top three will meet Friday. Pennsbury is an intriguing team that reminds me a lot of Chester, and not just because of the orange-and-black color scheme: They can push the pace, they have length in the lane and they have a good group of guards who can shoot, drive and defend. It’s going to be a good one, and I have a feeling trying to keep score will be a bit of a nightmare as the game sprints by me.

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