CHC freshman Brittney McNamara (left) drives on Bloomsburg’s Brianna Dudeck in last Saturday’s opening game. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

CHC freshman Brittney McNamara (left) drives on Bloomsburg’s Brianna Dudeck in last Saturday’s opening game. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

With a minute remaining in the first half of last Saturday’s women’s basketball opener at Chestnut Hill College, the host Griffins were only seven points behind visiting Bloomsburg University, a Pa. State Athletic Conference power and an NCAA Division II tournament team last season. In fact, the Griffins would’ve been even closer if not for a pair of missed free throws with 88 seconds to go.

At the very end of the opening round, though, Bloomsburg had sophomore Erica Maciejewski sock away four straight free throws. That spread the gap to double digits for halftime at 41-30 and, even worse, the four-point burst proved to be the start of 14-0 surge that extended into the second half. From there, the Huskies kept pulling hard right to the end of the trail, winning 97-57.

“Our goal right now is to prepare for the conference games, so our non-conference schedule is extremely challenging,” commented third-year head coach Laura Pruitt. “Bloomsburg plays a particular type of way and they don’t deviate a lot from their plan. They run the basketball, they shoot the ‘three’, they share the ball. They have a team full of kids who make shots, not just the starters.”

Chestnut Hill appeared to be in dire straits early on, as the Huskies scored right off the opening tip and moved out to a 9-0 lead in two-and-a-half minutes, at which point the Griffins took a time-out. CHC came back out and got on the board with a 22-foot three pointer by junior guard Olivia Gorczynski, and a lay-up by senior forward Annie Farrow followed. Another Griffin who ordinarily plays the post is Aimee Bouie, but the 6’1” senior (CHC’s tallest player) had been out sick all week.

Bloomsburg had its lead back up to nine points a few more times, and was ahead 28-19 with a little over eight minutes left in the first period. CHC guard Shayla Felder, a junior out of Cheltenham High School, popped in a midrange jumper from the left side, then Farrow scored from the paint. When 5’11” freshman forward Lauren Milligan canned a shot from near the foul line, the hosts had their deficit down to just three points, at 28-25.

The visitors widened the gap again after that, but the Griffins were still within seven before Maciejewski’s last-minute free throws lifted the lead into double figures for the first time as the intermission arrived.

Some other members of the Huskies’ sophomore class are familiar figures to Philly-area hoops fans. Taylor Kaminski and Lauren Nealon played on several state championship teams at Archbishop Wood High School, and Maggie Borski played for Nazareth Academy in the Catholic Academies League. Borski is the younger sister of Penn Charter associate athletic director and soccer coach Darci Borski.

Considering the strength and depth of the Bloomsburg squad, the first half hadn’t gone that badly for Chestnut Hill.

“We were fresh, and we took care of the basketball,” Pruitt observed. “We also made shots, which helps not only on the scoreboard, but in regard to having energy and playing with enthusiasm.”

The word “enthusiastic” certainly applied to the manner in which Bloomsburg approached the second half. Running the floor aggressively, the Huskies started out with a 10-0 spree, and less than five minutes in, they were up by two-dozen points, 56-32.

“We didn’t communicate well at all in the second half,” stated Pruitt. “We don’t have multiple players who are gong to drop 25 points every night, so we really have to work for each other both offensively and defensively.”

Once the Huskies got rolling, their momentum just continued to build. Their lead peaked at 41 points before CHC’s Milligan chalked up the last point of the game from the foul line.

“When you have a game like this,” Pruitt remarked, “the next day of practice becomes the most important day of the season because that’s when you see how the team is going to respond. I thought our first half was really good today, so we’ll be fine once we get some more bodies into the rotation and develop some of our younger players.”