by Tom Utescher
In the calm just before the last snowstorm of January, Chestnut Hill College men’s basketball coach Jesse Balcer was looking for a bit of calm himself.
Six days earlier, his team notched the first win over Philadelphia University in the history of the CHC program, but coming off that emotional high the Griffins had slumped, turning in a sub-par performance in a loss to Post University on January 22. The Griffins got back on an even keel in time for last Tuesday’s conference home game, rallying from a four-point deficit early in the second half to knock off the visiting Wilmington University Wildcats, 91-78.
CHC’s mainstay in the middle, junior power forward Dan Comas, came through with a game-high 22 points and 14 rebounds, and he was joined by three guards who were double-digit scorers. Sophomore Jakeem Bogans contributed 16 points and two steals, junior Uros Kovacevic had 15 points and three assists, and sophomore Mark DiRugeris added 13 points and two assists.
The Griffins went back to their dorm rooms with an overall record of 6-10 and a 3-5 ledger in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, while the Wildcats boarded their bus with a mark of 6-11, 4-5.
Wilmington began the night with three regular field goals by Robert Owens and three three-pointers by fellow forward Corye Payton, taking a 15-9 lead in the first seven minutes. The rest of the night, the CHC defense held Owens scoreless and limited Payton to three points. Still, despite 13 points from Comas and 12 by Bogans in the first half, the Griffins were behind 36-33 at the interlude.
The Wildcats went up 39-35 in the opening minute of the second half, then CHC sandwiched a score off-the-rebound by Comas between driving lay-ups by two Griffin guards, senior Brandon Williams (nine points, three assists, four steals) and sophomore Francis Ashe (six points, three assists, four steals).
Williams and Ashe each scored six points in the second period, whereas before the break they had just three points between them. Kovacevic also came on in the second half, when he deposited 12 of his 15 points.
The visitors led for the last time at 43-41. Bogans scored on a follow to tie the game, then hit a lay-up stemming from a Wilmington turnover, making it 45-43 with 16:14 left to play. A lay-up by Kovacevic and a three-pointer by senior forward Trenton Davidheiser completed a pivotal 9-0 burst by the home team.
With a little under eight minutes to go the Griffins had their lead in double figures at 65-54, but a little 6-0 run by the visitors made it a five-point game with five minutes to go. Fruitful drives by CHC’s Kovacevic and freshman forward Khadim Ndiaye (seven points, four rebounds) halted the Wildcats’ charge, and Chestnut Hill went on to win by 13 points.