Philadelphia University’s Nick Christian (left) slides in to counter the advance of CHC guard Mark DiRugeris. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

In their last two encounters of the 2010-2011 season, Chestnut Hill College coach Jesse Balcer beat his own former mentor, Philadelphia University legend Herb Magee, in one regular-season and one postseason contest in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference.

The third time was not a charm for Balcer and his Griffins, who fell victim to a 19-4 run by the visiting Rams in the final six minutes of their most recent engagement. Philly U’s 56-42 victory in the January 16 clash raised its record to 6-0 in the CACC and 10-4 overall. CHC, which has lost two conference games in a row after starting out 12-5 overall, slipped to 5-2 in Central Atlantic competition.

“We were fortunate that we played good defense, or it could have been really embarrassing,” confessed Balcer. “Except for that, we didn’t do anything you need to do to win against a really good team.”

While the Rams started out with three-point baskets by junior Jim Connolly and freshman Nick Schlitzer, Chestnut Hill did not score for well over five minutes, finally getting on the board with a jumper from just past the free throw line by freshman Alssene Saintilus.

“On offense, they took us out of what we usually do, just with good pressure,” Balcer noted. “We’re usually patient and we move the ball from side to side, but when they pressured us we kind of panicked. We never really got in-sync.”

Still, the hosts were able to rally from a 14-2 shortfall to get within six by halftime. At the buzzer, CHC junior Mark DiRugeris stuck a three-pointer from the left wing, setting the score at 28-22. Later, another outside missle by DiRugeris got the Griffins a 34-33 lead with a little over a dozen minutes remaining in the contest.

From there, Chestnut Hill’s Dan Comas and Torrell Candelaria traded field goals with the Rams, as the score seesawed to 38-37 with under seven minutes to go. That would be the Griffins’ last lead of the night, and their last field goal until the concluding minute of the contest.

The Rams’ Schlitzer, a coal country product from Pottsville High, showed why he’s already earned a starting role by knocking down a “three” to start the visitors’ final offensive. Not long after that, things didn’t look as promising for Philly U. when seven-foot center Temi Adebayo acquired his fourth and fifth fouls in just 16 seconds.

However, CHC whiffed on both free throws stemming from Adebayo’s fifth infraction, and the Rams scored seven more points for a 10-0 run. Griffins freshman Seamus Radke snapped the string with a pair of free throws with two minutes left, but the only other points for the Griffins came on a Candelaria lay-up with 36 seconds remaining.

“At crunch time, they started making shots, and we never did,” Balcer said.

Saintilus was productive in a losing cause with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks for the Griffins, who received six points apiece from Comas (eight rebounds), Candelaria, and DiRugeris (three assists). A well-balanced scoresheet for Philly U. showed double-digit efforts from Connolly (16), Corey Francisco (11), and Schlitzer (10), with Adebayo (10 rebounds) and Nick Christian adding nine points each. Forward Tyree Harris only scored one point but grabbed some key rebounds late in the game, finishing with eight boards.

“The good thing,” Balcer reflected, “is that it was only game seven of the conference (out of 17), and we can look at what we did wrong and improve.”

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