by Tom Utescher
A boisterous home crowd packed Sorgenti Arena last Friday night for Chestnut Hill College’s season opener in men’s basketball, and the host Griffins didn’t disappoint, posting a 68-62 non-conference victory over one of the large Division II state schools, Bloomsburg University.
It wasn’t a happy homecoming for Huskies junior forward Alsene Saintilus, who recently transferred to Bloomsburg after playing his first two seasons of college ball at Chestnut Hill. A starter at his new school, Saintilus managed two points and one rebound in his debut, and naturally his every misstep drew noisy commentary from some of the CHC fans.
Two new additions to the Chestnut Hill roster combined for 40 points in the 2013 opener; forward Filip Sekulic scored a game-high 21 points, while guard Taylor Trevisan was close behind with 19, matching the total put up by Huskies high scorer Lorenzo Christmas, who played for Norristown High School.
Sekulic, originally from Montenegro, arrived here after a two-year community college career, and West Chester native Trevisan, a former walk-on at St. Joseph’s University, is a graduate student at CHC. Both have blended in well with the Griffins’ veterans, according to head coach Jesse Balcer, who is starting in on his 11th season at the college.
“Our team is playing really well together right now,” he said. “Tonight we had Filip and Taylor really step up their game, and the good thing is we have a lot of different guys who can do the same thing on a given night.”
Sekulic, at 6’11”, started alongside 6’10” junior veteran Seamus Radtke (a Father Judge grad), giving the Griffins two pillars in the paint. Starting at point guard was Jakeem Bogans, a member of the last graduating class at Cardinal Dougherty High School and now in his final season at Chestnut Hill.
Sophomore guard Noel Hightower tabbed the first points of the 2013-14 season with a lay-up, then Trevisan netted his first CHC basket on a three-pointer from the left corner as Bloomsburg struggled at the other end against the CHC defense. Later, it was another drive by Hightower, accompanied by a made free throw, that put the Griffins in front 17-11 at the 10-minute mark.
The next quarter of play did not go well for the hosts at first, as the Huskies ran off 10 straight points to go up 21-17. The last two points in this run proved to be the only two scored by former Griffin Saintilus. They came from the free throw line thanks to Chestnut Hill’s seventh team foul of the half, with 6:42 remaining in the period.
After that, though, the Huskies managed to get themselves in more foul trouble than the Griffins, winding up with 13 personals for the half to CHC’s nine. Following a time-out, the home team stopped its scoreless slide with a lay-up by Radtke. Still, the visitors extended their lead to seven points (27-20) with four minutes to go.
The Griffins began to penetrate aggressively into the paint, and the Huskies kept fouling them. Shooting eight-for-nine at the free throw line and receiving a pair of lay-ups from Sekulic, Chestnut Hill accounted for the last dozen points of the period, and led 32-27 at the break.
The home team maintained a lead in the low single digits for the first 10 minutes of the second half, and just past the midway point the tally was 47-43. CHC then received back-to-back three-pointers from the tallest and smallest men on its roster, as a trey by Sekulic was followed by one from 5’8” guard Billy Cassidy, a freshman out of Friends Central School.
The Griffins saw most of their 10-point lead dissipate in short order as the Huskies hung the next six points on the board. Later on, CHC went up 60-51, but Bloomsburg rallied back within two, 60-58, with just over two minutes left to play.
“I tell the guys that in games like this you go through peaks and valleys,” Coach Balcer said, “and you need to make sure you spend more time on the peak than in the valley. You have to put good plays together at the right time to win close games. We were up by 10, then we let them back in. We couldn’t just finish them, and we need to get better at that if we’re going to be a good team.”
Trevisan targeted a jumper from the right baseline to spread the gap to four points. Sophomore guard Christian Walck stole the ball back for the Griffins, but they missed a shot from the paint. As Bloomsburg tried to come up the floor, Radtke tied up the ball and the possession arrow pointed CHC’s way with 36 seconds to go. The Griffins called a time-out.
“We wanted to settle them down,” explained Balcer, whose team was just about to get into the foul double bonus. “We needed to forget about the free throws we missed earlier and just focus on the ones we were going to shoot the rest of the game.”
A 10th foul was quickly committed by the Huskies, and Trevisan made both free throws for a six-point Chestnut Hill lead. Bloomsburg missed on a three-point attempt, then tipped the ball out of bounds going for the rebound. A long inbounds pass found Sekulic racing up the floor, and he threw down a crowd-pleasing dunk to make it 66-58.
The visitors also reached the double bonus, and senior Andrew Morgan reduced the gap to six by making two free throws with under 20 seconds to go. CHC missed a chance to extend its lead from the foul line, but at the other end the Huskies were unable to fill the cylinder on a lay-up. They had to foul, and Trevisan netted the last two points for the winners from the charity stripe with five seconds left.
The Griffins let Bloomsburg’s Dontahe Jordan go to the hoop pretty much unopposed for the last field goal of the night, which still left Chestnut Hill with a six-point final margin.
Supporting the offensive effort of Sekulic and Trevisan (who also had a game-high nine rebounds), Hightower (five rebounds, three steals) and Radtke (six rebounds) scored nine points apiece. For Bloomsburg, Jordan finished two points short of Christmas, with 17 points for the night.