by Tom Utescher
Although the Chestnut Hill College women ended the basketball season with a loss to longtime Central Atlantic College Conference power Holy Family University, there are plenty of reasons for a positive overview of the 2014-15 campaign.
Last Tuesday’s 71-60 setback against the visiting Tigers closed out the Griffins’ season with a conference record of 8-11, and an overall mark of 10-16. It’s the first time that CHC has reached double figures in the win column since the school ascended to NCAA Division II status in 2007-08.
Chestnut Hill had lost to Holy Family on the road in the middle of January, but after that, the Griffins won six of their last 10 games.
During that stretch, CHC prevailed for the first time ever against another well-established rival program, Philadelphia University.
“It was great because it was a crosstown rival, and while most of the games between us have been very competitive, this was the first time we got the win,” remarked fourth-year head coach Laura Pruitt. “I think everyone around school was pumped up, and it definitely gave the girls confidence.”
At Philly U. back on December 13, the Lady Rams had gored the Griffins, 80-49. CHC was playing without two ailing senior starters, point guard Shayla Felder (Cheltenham H.S.) and shooting guard Olivia Gorczynski. A few weeks later, the back court players had recovered, and the team had added a senior transfer from Division I University of Cincinnati, 6’1” forward Tiffany Turner.
Philadelphia University, as Pruitt noted, “faced a very different Chestnut Hill team the second time.”
The Griffins finished fifth in the South Division of the CACC, missing the playoffs by one place. Just ahead of them in fourth was Goldey Beacom College of Wilmington, Del., in its second season under former CHC standout Bethann (Castone) Burke (’06).
In the season finale against Holy Family, the Griffins let the Tigers get out to a 10-0 lead over the first three-and-a-half minutes. Gorczynski and Turner led the hosts back to a more respectable 17-12 shortfall by the middle of the period. After that, HFU post player Kasey Woetzel scored inside and several other Tigers heated up on the perimeter, powering the visitors to a 42-22 halftime lead.
Lay-ups by Turner, sophomore forward Lauren Milligan, and senior guard Tenisha Townsend-Mobley got the Griffins six points closer before Holy Family scored its first points of the second half. The Griffins kept after their guests, but couldn’t come closer than 13 points until the final stage of the contest.
Holy Family was up 63-44 with a little over four minutes remaining when the Griffins began one last push. After Townsend-Mobley bagged a 15-footer, Felder lobbed a three-pointer from the right corner and then moved in for a lay-up with a free throw attached, and a pull-up jumper from the lane. Turner then drove in to score, capping off a 12-2 charge and closing up the score to 65-56 with just over a minute remaining in the game.
The Tigers hadn’t scored a field goal during the Chestnut Hill spurt, but now they got one from the paint. After trading a pair of free throws with Holy Family’s Woetzel, Felder hit a runner from the right baseline. CHC called a time-out and was sitting nine points back once more, but now only 29 seconds were left. The last two points of the night came on a transition lay-up by the visitors’ Woetzel.
She finished with 19 points for the winners, who received 16 from forward Sarah Pawlak, while Turner and Felder each put up 17 for Chestnut Hill.
Looking back on the season, Pruitt said, “It was a fun rollercoaster ride. We had four seniors [Felder, Gorczynski, Townsend-Mobley, and Turner] who really embody everything we want our program to stand for; leadership, perseverance, commitment on and off the floor. It took a little while for our team to come together and mature.
When we hit our stride we were able to win some basketball games, but unfortunately it came a little late in the year.”
In the addition to the veterans, the Griffins gave a good deal of court time to members of a talented freshman class that included two 6’1” forwards and several guards who were ready to step into the fray.
“We had 10 freshmen and sophomores this season, and we won’t have any seniors next year,” CHC’s skipper pointed out. “We’re really excited about the future.”