Staff photos by Tom Kelly IV Conestoga’s (2) gets a congratulatory hug from the head coach during the Lower Merion at Conestoga boys district playoff
Staff photos by Tom Kelly IV Conestoga's (2) gets a congratulatory hug from the head coach during the Lower Merion at Conestoga boys district playoff basketball game, Friday night February 21, 2014. (Tom Kelly IV)

By NATE HECKENBERGER

nateheckenberger@gmail.com

@nheckenberger

WESTTOWN -- There was a time earlier this season when West Chester Rustin was in a bad way and head coach Keith Cochran decided to make a promise.

"Starting off 0-3 and nobody believed in us but us,' Cochran said. "I told the team when we left Sun Valley (after losing 74-73 to go 0-3), I promised to turn this around if they stuck with me and believed in me because I believed in them.'

What may have felt more like a plea than a prophecy has now been fulfilled.

Behind an overbearing performance by senior guard Ethan Ridgeway, No. 14 Rustin defeated No. 17 Central Bucks West, 48-40, at home in the boys Class AAAA District 1 quarterfinals.

Staff photos by Tom Kelly IV Conestoga’s (2) goes up for a layup from the baseline during the Lower Merion at Conestoga boys district playoff
Staff photos by Tom Kelly IV Conestoga's (2) goes up for a layup from the baseline during the Lower Merion at Conestoga boys district playoff basketball game, Friday night February 21, 2014. (Tom Kelly IV)

Ridgeway scored a game-high 20 points and either made or assisted on 13 of the Golden Knights' 15 field goals on the night. Rustin will head to its first semifinals since 2010 to play No. 2 Chester at Temple University on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

"We really wanted to get back,' Ridgeway said. "It's my senior year and I'm leading the team now. No one believed we could do it, so it feels great.'

The two teams volleyed the lead for much of the second quarter and into the third. Ridgeway was aggressive all night, penetrating the Bucks' defense continuously.

West took its final lead, 26-25, midway through the third before Ridgeway took over. He scored seven points and assisted on field goals by Andrew Chobany and Tyler Blake as the Knights finished the quarter on an 11-0 run.

"He's hands-down their best player,' West coach Adam Sherman said of Ridgeway. "He does a fantastic job getting people set up. The ball's in his hands 95 percent of the time and he's so good in the lane at finding people.'

The strategy was the same in the first half for Rustin. The execution, however, was not as crisp. The Knights shot just 7-for-23 and Ridgeway was 3-for-11. Ridgeway made only two shots in the second half, but got to the line seven times.

"At halftime coach told me to keep shooting my shots and keep getting to the hole,' Ridgeway said. "(West) was trying to slow things down, but we were trying to press the issue because we like to speed it up a little.'

The other half of the 11-0 run to pull away in the third quarter was Rustin's defense. West shot 46 percent from the field in the first half, largely in part by 6-foot-5 senior Evan Dunn, who dropped 11 of his 17 points in the first half.

In the third quarter the Knights held the Bucks to just six points on 2-of-8 shooting.

"We went into the locker room and I told our bigs, (Dunn's) a man, we're men,' Cochran said. "Right now we're playing like boys.'

His bigs responded. Tyler Blake finished with six points and Brendan Halverson tacked on eight off the bench.

West never got closer than seven points in the fourth quarter. The Bucks never trailed in the first led by four late in the second before Chobany drilled a three-pointer with one second left to make it 20-19, West.

"That three at the end of the half gave them a little momentum because it changed it from a four-point game to one,' Sherman said. "The third quarter, we knew for us to be in position to win we had to control the game and we got behind going into the fourth.'

The Knights clinched a top-four seed in the PIAA tournament heading into a rematch of last season's first-round matchup against Chester, won by the Clippers, 86-58.

West Chester Rustin 48, Central Bucks West 40

C.B West: Salvitti 1 0-0 2; Kelly 5 5-8 15; Kelley 0 2-2 2; Schechter 2 0-0 4; Dunn 5 7-8 17; Reichwein 0 0-0 0; Munari 0 0-0 0; Irons 0 0-0 0; Brunetto 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 14-18 40.

W.C. Rustin: Richardson 0 2-2 2; Andersson 0 0-0 0; Ridgeway 5 10-17 20; Blake 3 0-0 6; Chobany 4 1-2 10; McCarrick 1 0-0 2; Halverson 2 4-4 8; Matthews 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 17-25 48.C.B. West 11 9 6 14 -- 40

W.C. Rustin 8 11 17 12 -- 48

3-point goals: Chobany.