By BRAD SPAHR
CALN — Over the course of the last two seasons, the West Chester Rustin girls basketball team has made a whole lot of school history. They did so again Friday night.
Last year, the Golden Knights won their first Ches-Mont League championship. They went on to advance further in the district tournament than they ever had before — to the semifinals — and in the process qualified for the state playoffs for the first time.
One thing they failed to do last year, though, was win a game in the state tournament, as they blew a 12-point fourth quarter lead in an opening round one-point loss to Dover.
On Friday, Rustin was primed and ready to erase the bitter taste of last year's early state playoff exit. The Golden Knights took out their frustration on a really good Manheim Township squad, destroying them by a score of 71-47 in their first round PIAA Class AAAA playoff game at Coatesville High School.
Rustin (24-6 overall) rolled to its first state playoff victory in school history behind the sensational play of their only senior starter.
Center Adashia Franklyn, who will play for St. Joseph's next year, is actually one of only two seniors on the entire roster. Franklyn was not at all ready for her scholastic career to come to a close.
Franklyn was outstanding, dominating in the paint throughout, on her way to a game-high 31 points.
The Golden Knights found themselves in a tough game early on. They led 34-26 at halftime. That's when Franklyn took over, scoring 23 of her 31 points in the second half to help her team cruise into the second round.
West Chester Rustin will face District 11 champion Parkland in their next PIAA Class AAA playoff game on Tuesday night at a neutral site and time to be determined.
"I didn't want to lose. I didn't want this to be my last game,' said Franklyn. "Especially after the way we lost in the first round of states last year, we wanted to leave everything on the court tonight.
"I think we did that, and it feels great to get the win. Now we're excited for our next game on Tuesday.'
Junior forward Casey Warley also had a huge game for the Golden Knights, as she scored all 12 of her points in the opening half. Warley's play helped her team hang in amidst a hard-fought battle in the first two quarters against a tough Manheim Township (27-3) opponent who had been 27-0 until closing the season with three straight setbacks.
Rustin led 17-13 at the end of one quarter, and by eight at the break. They were able to do so thanks to five baskets by Warley in the opening 16 minutes.
Junior Katie O'Hare added eight points for Rustin, including two key 3-pointers. Courtney Warley and Noelle Powell both finished with five points apiece.
Powell scored a key basket inside late in the third quarter and drew a foul on the play. She missed the free-throw, but Franklyn corralled the offensive board and scored on a put back. She too was fouled. Although she didn't covert the free throw it was a quick four points. In all, Rustin closed the period on a 6-0 run and built some big breathing room in the process as they grabbed a 51-38 lead after three.
Then Franklyn opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back baskets, and just like that the Rustin lead had ballooned to 55-38 with 6:51 remaining.
They never looked back from there.
"Manheim certainly wasn't a pushover at all,' said second-year Rustin coach Leah Kim. "They were a tough, tough team. I was really pleased with our ball movement tonight, and our patience, which allowed things to open up.
"Casey [Warley] was fantastic in the first half — an absolute rock for us. She was so poised when she had the ball in her hand. And Adashia, she's a senior who didn't want her career to end. She did a great job of taking over when the opportunities presented themselves.'
Manheim Township had a lot of trouble getting the ball up court all game in the face of Rustin's press. They turned the ball over 15 times. When they did get settled in their offense came pretty much solely from two players. Senior forward Kaitlyn VanTash (18 points) and senior center Alexandra Leslie (16 points) combined for 34 of the teams 47 points. Only one other Blue Streaks player made more than one field goal in the contest.
Rustin, on the other hand, committed only five turnovers. They also had eight different players score.
"It was tough last season to have things end the way they did, and the kids and I discussed that,' said Kim, "so for us to do one better than last year says an awful lot about these girls.'
Now West Chester Rustin is one of only 16 teams remaining in the state, and just three more victories away from reaching the state title game at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Next up, will be Parkland on Tuesday. Parkland edged District 1's eighth-place team, Central Bucks East, by a score of 32-30 on Friday to advance.
"The kids and I love the game of basketball and to be able to still be a part of March Madness if you will, and playing on Tuesday, is awesome,' said Kim. "This is something that these girls will remember forever.'
W.C. Rustin 71
Manheim Township 47
MANHEIM TOWNSHIP: Schultz 1 0-0 2, Leslie 6 4-5 16, Cotter 1 0-0 2, VanTash 8 1-1 18, Relin 1 0-0 2, Ridley 1 0-0 2, Hickey 2 0-0 5. Totals: 20 5-6 47.
W.C. RUSTIN: Ca. Warley 5 0-0 12, Powell 2 1-3 5, O'Hare 3 0-0 8, Franklyn 15 1-3 31, Co. Warley 2 1-2 5, Pitts 2 0-0 4, C. Nelson 0 0-1 0, Zavitsky 1 1-2 4, Walls 2 0-0 2. Totals: 32 4-11 71.Manheim Township 13 13 12 9 — 47
W.C. Rustin 17 17 17 20 — 71
3-point goals: VanTash, Hickey; Ca. Warley 2, O'Hare 2, Zavitsky.