The last meeting between Chester and West Chester Rustin can be painted with the tired brush of a "tale of two games."
Luckily for Chester, the game in which they looked like the District One champs they would become three days later lasted for three quarters. The other eight minutes, well, not so much.
When the teams renew acquaintances Saturday afternoon at Coatesville High School for the PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinals, the name of the game for the Clippers (24-5) and Rustin, District One's fourth-place team, will be adjustments. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.
The last time they met, in a District One semifinal Feb. 25, Chester was clearly the better team in registering a 72-56 win. The first half was a tour de force in which the Clippers outscored the Knights 36-20. Rustin went into the locker room even on the scoreboard with just Mahir Johnson, who finished with a game-high 29 points.
But the Knights made adjustments after halftime. Following a dreadful 0-for-10 performance from 3-point land in the game's first 16 minutes, they hit four third-quarter triples, all by Andrew Chobany, who finished with 26 points. They finished the game 6-for-22 from beyond the arc, though most of the attempts were uncharacteristic and borne from the desperation of an early double-digit deficit and inability to create any offense near the tin.
The final margin in the game was remarkable given the fact that Chester went without a field goal for the entire fourth quarter, registering all 15 of its points from the free throw line on 20 attempts. The Clippers were 30-for-38 for the game from the charity stripe.
Johnson's massive game was supplemented by Tyrell Sturdivant, who had 21 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. Gabe Adesina had five rebounds and six blocks in the game. Those two bigs will be a factor this time around, as the Clippers — like they do against most teams — possess a noted height advantage. How Rustin (19-11) chooses to negate that, whether with a zone defense or some other tactic, will be telling.
Rustin has shown an ability to bounce back. Though it lost the District One third-place game to Conestoga, it rebounded by eking out close decisions to banish Central York (54-47) and Parkland (60-57) from the PIAA Tournament.
A major protagonist in those games was Ethan Ridgeway, the Knights' 1,000-point scorer who holds the key to the rematch with Chester. The 5-10 Ridgeway was anonymous in the earlier meeting, forcing shots and engulfed by the defensive length of the Clippers every time he dared to drive the lane. His shooting numbers were grim: 2-for-15 from the field, 0-for-7 from 3-point range and a paltry total of eight points.
To his credit, he did adjust after halftime to dish six assists, his drive-and-kick action primarily responsible for finding Chobany the space to fire away from deep. But if the Knights harbor any ideas of an upset, Ridgeway will have to assert his will on the game, early and often.