by Tom Utescher
For the struggling men’s and women’s basketball teams at Chestnut Hill College, last Tuesday night’s doubleheader offered an opportunity for expiation in front of their home fans.
After facing some very strong non-conference opponents, both the Griffin men (1-5) and ladies (0-4) opened up in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference against Wilmington University teams that had also gotten off to a rocky start. Both the male and female Wildcats had been ranked lower than their CHC counterparts in the pre-season conference poll, and they arrived at Sorgenti Arena with respective records of 2-4 and 0-3.
However, when the gathering dispersed for the long holiday weekend at the end of the evening, it was the Delaware school which had more cause to be thankful. The women’s game was tied with under six minutes to go, then the visitors pulled away down the stretch to earn a 78-68 victory. The men of Chestnut Hill also fell victim to a late Wilmington surge, forfeiting a nine-point advantage during the final five-and-a-half minutes and ultimately losing by a single point, 63-62.
In the women’s game Lauren Milligan, a CHC freshman from London, scored down low along with fellow forward Annie Farrow (a senior), and junior shooting guard Olivia Gorczynski bagged three three-point field goals to help the Griffins go up 24-20 a little over a dozen minutes into the proceedings.
The Wilmington defense turned off the tap on the Griffins’ outside scoring, and six-for-seven foul-shooting over the last few minutes of the first period helped the Lady Wildcats gain a 37-34 edge by halftime. Neither team was putting on a basketball clinic; both the Griffins and Wildcats registered more turnovers than made field goals during the first 20 minutes.
In the early stages of the second half the hosts slipped behind by eight points (46-38), but they got back in it over the next few minutes, as Gorczynski hit two treys and a pair of free throws. CHC also got a spark off the bench from a pair of quick quards, junior Shayla Felder (a Cheltenham High grad) and freshman Erica McIntosh.
With CHC down by five at 60-55, a transition bucket by Gorczynski and a lay-up and a free throw by McIntosh tied the contest at 60-60 with 5:28 left to play.
At crunch time, though, the Wildcats seemed to be able to drive and score at will. When they weren’t hitting their lay-ups it was usually because they were fouled, and they had already gotten into the double bonus with eight minutes remaining in the game. After breaking out of the 60-all tie with a 9-0 burst of offense, the visitors could afford to essentially trade points the rest of the way.
CHC actually had the game’s high scorer in Gorczynski, whose 27 points incorporated a six-for-10 night at the three-point loop. Scoring mostly on dribble penetration, guard Tenicia Spence rang up 26 points for the winners, whose other double-digit scorers, Taylor Carter (12 points) and Jasmine Lee (11 points), also played in the backcourt. Wilmington forward Tashea Plummer swept a dozen rebounds off the glass and added five points for the Wildcats.
Farrow deposited 11 points and pulled in a team-high 10 rebounds for Chestnut Hill, which received eight points and a team-best five assists from junior guard Tenisha Townsend-Mobley.
If the men’s game that followed had come to an end in less than seven minutes, the Griffins would’ve been in great shape. At that juncture they had a double-digit lead on the Wildcats, 17-6, due largely to four field goals and a pair of free throws by junior center Seamus Radtke. Unfortunately for the home fans, Wilmington held Radtke to four points the rest of the way, and much of CHC’s early lead quickly disappeared as the visitors rang up eight straight points, closing up the score to 17-14 with 10:50 still to go in the opening period.
Soon after that, two three-point field goals by visitor Shai Henry made it a one-point game at 21-20, but Wilmington couldn’t get over the hump as CHC’s Radtke hit a lay-up and guard Taylor Trevisan followed up with a short jumper. The Griffins’ other “big,” junior Filip Sekulic (an inch taller than Radtke, at 6’11”), scored twice down the stretch to help ensure that the hosts held the lead at halftime, 29-25.
Sekulic and senior guard Jakeem Bogans, who each finished with 13 points, contributed nine and eight points, respectively, in the second half to help sustain the Griffins’ offense. The Wildcats opened the period with a 13-4 run that gave them a 38-33 advantage, but the Griffins edged back into the lead five minutes into the frame with a trey by Sekulic and a lay-up and free throw sequence for sophomore guard Christian Walck.
Neither team could break away over the next half-dozen minutes, and at the end of that span the Wildcats stuck their noses in front again, 47-45. What followed looked to be a decisive move by the Griffins in the eyes of the home crowd. Bogans leveled the score on two free throws, then he hit a lay-up immediately after Trevisan (11 points total) targeted a three-point shot. A jumper from the left baseline by Sekulic and a drive by Walck extended the Chestnut Hill spurt to 11-0, spreading the score to 56-47 with 5:30 left to play.
This was not a turning point, after all, since Wilmington immediately drew both points from a one-and-one opportunity, and soon tacked on four more points as CHC committed a foul on a successful three-point shot by the Wildcats.
Nevertheless, the Griffins entered the final minute of the game with a one-point edge, 62-61. The final tally went up on the board with 41 seconds left, when Chestnut Hill committed its 10th team foul and visitor Shaq Monroe-Gaskins cashed in on the double bonus. The Wildcats then whiffed on two free throws with 18 seconds remaining, as CHC’s Walck left the floor with his fifth foul.
Bogans missed a shot on a drive down the lane, and Wilmington called time-out with 2.5 seconds to go, still leading 63-62. The Wildcats turned the ball over out-of-bounds, but off the inbounds pass, CHC’s Trevisan was called for a walk and the game came to an end.
Radtke’s early output helped him accumulate a team-high 14 points, and he shared the top rebounding total (nine) with Ta’Vaune Griffin of Wilmington. The Wildcats’ Herbert Dennis had game highs in both points (15) and assists (four).