Philadelphia University junior Kristen Blye (left) tries to box out Ebony Washington, a CHC senior. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Their 2-12 record may not be convincing, but watching the women’s basketball team at Chestnut Hill College in recent outings will persuade you that the Griffins are heading in the right direction.

In a home appearance on January 16, CHC faced a well-established Division II rival, Philadelphia University, and Chestnut Hill almost took the game right down to the wire before the Lady Rams pulled away to win, 63-57. Rising to a record of 12-4 overall and 7-1 within the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, Philly U. closed out the game with an 8-2 run. Chestnut Hill’s Ebony Washington had tied the game at 55-all, scoring off of a rebound with 1:25 left on the clock. The senior forward finished with a double-double, 12 points and 12 rebounds.

“Ebony played terrific,” said first-year CHC coach Laura Pruitt. “We knew she could do that; it was just a question of playing with confidence.”

Fellow senior Aiesha Smith, a guard, also deposited a dozen points for the hosts, who got 10 points from shooting guard Olivia Gorczynski and nine from her freshman classmate Lila Jones.

The victorious Lady Rams also spread around their offensive output, with four double-digit scorers and a fifth player, guard Steph Agger, with nine points. All-Conference senior forward Christine Wooding led the way with a game-high 18 points, along with 11 rebounds and four assists. Another six-foot forward, Kristen Blye, bagged 12 points, while forward Taylor Peltzer (six rebounds, two assists) and guard Samantha Morris notched 11 points apiece.

CHC’s Pruitt said that the Griffins weren’t concerned about the long distance shooting of Philly U., but wanted to make sure that points in the paint didn’t come too easily. Wooding scored two early lay-ups, one in transition, then stepped out a bit for some mid-range jumpers. She was joined by two other seniors and a junior in the starting line-up, while CHC started three freshman, with Smith coming off the bench.

“We stuck to our game plan for the most part,” Pruitt commented. “We had some letdowns on a few offensive rebounds and missed lay-ups. You can’t get away with those hiccups against an experienced team like Philly U.”

With 11 minutes elapsed the visitors were out front, 13-5, but three buckets from the paint by Washington and a lay-up and a jumper by Smith kept the Lady Rams from reaching a double-digit advantage. CHC’s Jones scored the last two points of the half from the foul line, bringing her ballclub within three points at the break, 23-20.

The Lady Rams drew away once more thanks to a pair of Peltzer projectiles from the three-point line, and then a shorter shot by Blye spread the score to 39-28 with 14:30 left in the contest. The Griffins responded well to a time-out talk, coming back out with lay-ups by Smith and Lindsay Alexander, a three-pointer from Jones, and two free throws tacked on by Gorczynski.

It was now a two-point game with 11-and-a-half minutes to go, and it stayed close the rest of the way. The Lady Rams had Blye acquire a fourth personal foul with 4:30 remaining, when they only led 50-49. Chestnut Hill missed a lay-up which would have given the Griffins the lead for the first time all night, then Wooding was fouled on a jump shot, making both the field goal and the free throw for Philly U.

Still, CHC would tie the game twice after that, the last time at 55-55 when Washington converted an offensive rebound with 1:25 left on the clock. As the final minute approached, Blye bagged a short jumper from the lane to move the visitors ahead for good, and Chestnut Hill missed a lay-up at the other end with 44 ticks to go.

The Lady Rams then put the ball in the steady hands of their senior point guard, Agger, who hit two free throws at 0:38 to make it 59-55. The visitors had fouls to give and pared time off the clock by committing a few, forcing the Griffins to restart their offense from the sidelines. Another errant lay-up frustrated the home crowd, and Agger deposited two more foul shots with 19 seconds to go.

Five seconds later, CHC’s Jones scored in transition, but the hosts had to commit their 10th team foul after that, and Agger drained two more from the stripe to put the final score on the board.

UPDATE:  Two nights after the Philly U. game, Chestnut Hill claimed its third victory of the season in another conference clash. Senior forward Ashlen Stayrook and freshman guard Tenisha Townsend-Mobley scored 14 and 13 points respectively, and junior guard Asha Jones scored the final two points from the foul line in the Griffins’ 63-60 overtime win over Georgian Court University.

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