by Tom Utescher
After last Saturday afternoon’s home doubleheader in basketball, both the men’s and women’s teams came away with a record of 3-7 within the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, but one of the Griffins’ ball clubs had reason to be satisfied with its performance in Sorgenti Arena.
The CHC ladies rolled to an 81-49 victory over their Suburban New York counterparts from Concordia College, while the Griffin men descended to their 3-7 CACC mark thanks to a 92-72 loss to the visiting Concordia Clippers. Chestnut Hill players of both genders have had a difficult season overall, with the women heading into the final week of January with a 5-12 record, and the men at 4-13.
CHC senior Olivia Gorczynski, a slim shooting guard from north central New Jersey, lofted six successful three-point shots and went seven-for-eight at the foul line to lead all scorers for the day with 31 points, exactly the number she’d needed to reach the 1000-point mark for her career.
“I was a little nervous; I’ve been in the gym a lot working out, perfecting my shot,” she noted. “Today I didn’t know how many I needed at first, but during the second half my teammates were telling me, ‘you have like eight points to go,’ so they were helping me when I got close.
“It was good to get it done,” she continued. “My past few games I wasn’t thinking about it all the time, but it was there in the back of my mind and I was in a little bit of a funk.”
In high school, the sharpshooting Gorczynski had piled up 1435 points, and she recalled, “I think I hit 1000 points in the second game of my senior year, so it didn’t even faze me because it happened right away. I knew I would get my 1000 in college, but there was more of a build-up to it, so it was a different situation.”
Although its win/loss tally isn’t impressive, the team has given some strong performances against powerful opponents, as in a recent 45-39 loss to the University of the Sciences, which has the best record in the CACC.
The Griffins received a useful Christmas present when 6’1” forward Tiffany Turner transferred in and then became eligible in the new year. Originally from Marlton, N.J., Turner spent most of her college career in the Division I program at the University of Cincinnati, and so far at Chestnut Hill she has averaged almost 13 points and 10 rebounds per game.
“Tiffany came in at semester and gave us a boost that we needed,” Gorczynski said. “We have some good young post players, but she has more years of college experience, so they can learn from her and it will help them in the future.”
In the first seven minutes of Saturday’s contest, Gorczynski hit two three-pointers, a lay-up, and a pair of free throws, and Turner scored twice from under the basket and added a jumper from just outside the foul line. Another veteran senior guard, Tenisha Townsend-Mobley, provided two lay-ups and a free throw in this early surge, which had CHC ahead 23-10.
The Griffins would never relinquish control after that. When the Clippers tried to lock down Gorczynski, 2014 Abington Friends grad Bianca Adams came off the bench to pop a pair of three’s and distract the visiting defense.
With a comfortable halftime lead of 49-27, the Griffins and their fans increasingly turned their attention to Gorczynski’s quest for 1000 points. She’d netted 14 in the first half, and still needed 17 to hit the magic number. The figure dropped to 10 points over the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Then the scoring pace picked up for the senior. When Concordia committed its seventh team foul with nine minutes and 39 seconds remaining in the game, Gorczynski pulled both points out of the resulting one-and-one. Around a minute later, she bagged three-pointers on consecutive possessions, one from just to the right of the top of the key, and the other from the left corner.
With 998 in the books and more than eight minutes remaining, the outside ace was standing at the threshold, but taking that last step into the four-figures pantheon wasn’t so easy. Over the next few minutes, she missed an NBA-range three-pointer, and pushed another a little toward one side of the rim. Two lay-ups also failed to fall, and although it looked like there may have been contact by the defense on the second one, there was no call by the officials.
“When I knew that I only needed two points, my nerves were kicking in a little bit,” she admitted.
On her next drive, though, a whistle was heard, and when she stepped to the foul line, the senior was sufficiently calm to deposit two clean free throws. That gave her exactly 1000 points as a Griffin, and she had actually started out a little late on this four-year journey, not becoming eligible to play until the second semester of her freshman year.
She reached her goal with 4:51 left in the game, and her team, now ahead 74-39, waltzed to an easy win.
Gorczynski had seven rebounds and two assists to go with her game-high point total, while Turner netted 16 points, pulled 12 rebounds (the game high), and pocketed two steals.
A third double-digit scorer was Shayla Felder, a senior guard out of Cheltenham High School who contributed 10 points and a game-high six assists to the winning cause. Guard Julianne Wilkinson led the Clippers with 13 points.
In the game that followed, a lot of the problem for the CHC men was that their opponents simply played very well. Displaying a well-balanced offense, the Clippers shot almost 48 percent from the floor, getting good production from their starters and their reserves. They consistently reversed the flow of play quickly to score in transition. Chestnut Hill had an edge in overall rebounding, but gave that advantage away through turnovers, creating a net gain of one possession for the visitors.
“I thought our effort was okay,” said Chestnut Hill head coach Jesse Balcer. “We lost some focus in the first half when they started making a run. We got away from running our stuff on offense, and on defense we didn’t get back as a team and we gave them numbers.
“I also think you have to give a lot of credit to them,” the Griffins’ skipper went on. “That’s a good team that beat us and today they definitely played a lot better than we did.”
After senior guard Christian Walck drove in to give the home team an 8-6 edge a little over four minutes into the bout, Concordia went ahead for good. Still, CHC’s big men, seniors Filip Sekulic and Seamus Radtke, hit a lay-up and two free throws, respectively, to have the hosts just two points behind, 14-12, with 11:19 to play in the first half.
Then, in a span of less than seven minutes, the Griffins’ only offense came on two free throws and a lay-up from junior guard Noel Hightower as Concordia went on a 25-4 tear. The Clippers arced in four three-pointers from their set offense during this spree, while most of their regular field goals were transition lay-ups.
“Most of our losses this year have been a lot closer than this,” Balcer pointed out, “but in most of those games we fell back by a lot and then came back, and in this game we couldn’t come back.”
Over the last few minutes of the first half, sophomore forward Gerald Evariste came off the bench to give the Griffins a few field goals and Hightower made both shots on a one-and-one to post the last points of the period. The hosts’ deficit was back under 20 points for the intermission, 43-25.
CHC would never be able to bring the visitors’ lead below that 18-point margin though, and the spread neared 30 points several times in the second half. The Griffins worked hard to reestablish their offense, but just couldn’t come up with stops at the other end of the floor.
Freshman forward Ed McWade wound up leading the locals with 18 points and gathered in six rebounds. Walck came away with 13 points, four boards, and two steals, and Hightower produced eight points while taking game-high honors in the rebound column, with 11.
Freshman guard Demetrius Isaac, a Penn Charter grad who came off the bench to play more than half the game, recorded seven points, four rebounds, and a team-leading four assists.
Tying CHC’s McWade as game-high scorer with 18 points, Concordia sophomore guard Jalen Heath headed a list of five Clippers with double-digit totals.
“We’re still alive for the playoffs, but we need to figure some things out,” observed Chestnut Hill’s Balcer. “We have some talented players and the kids play hard, and it’s not easy to put your finger on the problem. I will say that our conference has the most talent that I’ve ever seen us have. You’ve got a team like Georgian Court (Lakewood, N.J.) that hasn’t won a single conference game yet, and they’re not a bad team at all.”