CHC junior guard Noel Hightower protects the ball while surveying the court. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

CHC junior guard Noel Hightower protects the ball while surveying the court. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

In a number of their losses this season, the men of Chestnut Hill College have come from a long way behind to make the contest a lot closer by the end. Last Tuesday’s season finale was not one of those games.

After visiting Holy Family University sprinted to a 17-5 lead out of the gate, the host Griffins got the margin back down into single figures at 19-10 with seven-and-a-half minutes gone, but the Tigers came back with eight straight points and kept their lead in double digits the rest of the way.

The 89-70 setback caused CHC to wrap up the 2014-15 season with an overall record of 6-20, and a 5-14 mark within the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference. Holy Family, jockeying for the best possible seeding for the conference tournament, came away 21-7, 15-4.

“They were focused and they were knocking down shots, and we were overwhelmed,” commented Chestnut Hill’s Jesse Balcer, concluding his 12th season as the Griffins’ head coach. “We didn’t respond very quickly, and by the time we did, it was too late. We weren’t terrible – a lot of it was just that Holy Family played very well. I was the most disappointed just by the fact that the season was all over.”

It was the first time under his tenure, in both NCAA Division II and Division III competition, that Chestnut Hill will not be engaged in some form of postseason play. The top four teams from each of the two divisions of the CACC make the conference tournament, and CHC was sixth in the South.

In the locker room after Tuesday’s swan song, Balcer related, “I just told the guys, remember the feeling of sitting here at the end of the season and not getting the opportunity to play in the playoffs, and don’t let it happen again.”

A pair of three-point field goals by Billy Cassidy, a sophomore out of Friends Central, had helped the Griffins keep the game from getting entirely out of hand at the outset.

But from the aforementioned 19-10 score, the Tigers went on a 17-4 tear that featured just one Luke Dickson (junior guard) lay-up and two Seamus Radtke (senior forward) free throws for CHC.

The last nine points for the Tigers in this sequence came on treys from the right wing by junior guard Eric Fleming. He is the son of former stars at the old Spring Garden College, forward Bobby Fleming and point guard Serafine Pio. Pio scored more than 3200 points as a Lady Bobcat.

With under five minutes to go in the opening period, Holy Family was way out front, 40-16, but two three-pointers by Dickson helped power a 13-2 Chestnut Hill run to close out the half.

The tally at the break was 42-29, with Dickson leading the hosts with 10 points and high-flying forward Isaiah Gans stuffing in a dozen for the Tigers.

Another Dickson triple at the start of the second half narrowed the gap to 10 points, but two field goals and a free throw by Gans made up most of 7-0 spurt for HFU, and the Griffins never got as close again. Several times, the Tigers matched their largest lead of the first half, at 24 points.

The second half brought 10 more points for CHC’s Cassidy, and he finished with a team-high 16 points, one ahead of Dickson. Freshman guard Ed McWade led the Griffins on the boards, with 10 rebounds, while scoring four points. Holy Family got a game-high 22 points from Gans, with Fleming and fellow guard Reggie Charles coming away with 18 and 10 points, respectively.

Speaking not only of this game, CHC mentor Balcer said, “Sometimes we didn’t take care of the little details. You have to have guys who are willing to get dirty and give up their body, and there were times when we weren’t willing to do those things. I’m not sure why that happened, but it hurt the team as a whole.”

He noted that for the most part, his athletes played hard even when it was clear the season wasn’t going to go as they’d hoped.

Focusing on two freshman guards, he remarked, “Ed McWade and Demetrius Isaac (a Penn Charter grad) really did a good job and I was playing them a lot at the end of the season. They’re going to be an important part of our team next year, and we’ll have some new guys coming in who definitely should help us.”