by Tom Utescher
With snow due to arrive late in the day, Chestnut Hill College moved up the start time of last Thursday’s conference doubleheader by two hours, so while departing fans had to clear some snow off their windshields at the end of the event, their vehicles weren’t completely buried.
For their trouble, supporters of the host Griffins and the visiting Tigers of Holy Family University were able to witness two hard-fought contests. Heavy favored in the women’s game, Holy Family was only six points ahead of the home team with 90 seconds remaining, and the Tigers added some late free throws to round out a 61-50 victory.
The CHC men received a total of 33 points from a pair of guards, tacking on the last two points of the game with one second on the clock to pull out a 62-57 win. The teams were tied at halftime, and neither squad led by more than seven points throughout the evening.
Last season, the women of Holy Family repeated as the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference champion and reached the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Eastern Regional. Last week they arrived in Chestnut Hill with only a 6-5 overall record, but with a 3-0 mark within the conference.
In the first half, the Tigers were powered by three players who used to be regular guests just down the road at Mount St. Joseph Academy. St. Basil grads Erin Fenningham (sophomore) and Mary Ellen McCollum gave the Tigers 11 and six points, respectively, in the initial 20 minutes against the Griffins, and five points came from Villa Joseph Marie alum Carolyne Heston.
McCollum and Fenningham opened the scoring for the visitors with strikes from the three-point arc. Before much longer the hosts found themselves trailing 11-2, with their only points coming on free throws by sophomore Shayla Felder, a Cheltenham High grad who would eventually post a game-high 20 points, along with three steals and four rebounds.
Senior center Aimee Bouie eventually gave the Griffins their first field goal, scoring from the paint six minutes into the action. A few minutes later, the home team was down a dozen at 18-6, then a lay-up by junior guard Olivia Gorczynski stopped the Griffins’ slide. At the intermission, they were eight points back, 32-24.
Chestnut Hill remained in contention in the second half, but most of the time the locals were unable to reduce their deficit to fewer than six points. They got it down to four momentarily (36-32) about eight minutes into the period, and later they came one point closer than that.
This happened with eight-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game, when Felder flung in a three-pointer to close up the count to 45-42. Soon after that Heston hit two free throws for Holy Family, and her teammate Jill Conroy, a freshman guard, bagged a trey to lever the lead back out to eight points. The rookie would score nine of her 11 total points in the second stanza.
With just a minute-and-a-half to go, the visitors still did not have the win locked up, ahead by half-a-dozen at 56-50. However, the Griffins had already committed eight team fouls, and on three more infractions down the stretch, Holy Family made five of six free throws for the 61-50 final.
After Felder’s game-high 20, the locals listed a dozen points and nine rebounds for Bouie, and eight points for Gorczynski. Aware that Gorczynski is CHC’s primary outside shooting threat, Holy Family was able to hold her to an 0-8 night from the three-point line. Senior forward Annie Farrow contributed four points, and also came up with three steals, while pulling 14 rebounds to tie HFU’s Heston for the game-high total.
Heston had nine points on the night for the victors, coming in after Fenningham (19 points, nine rebounds) and Conroy, and just ahead of McCollum (eight points, nine rebounds, two steals).
The setback left the Chestnut Hill women at 0-5 in conference competition and 1-10 overall, and going into the men’s game that followed, the male Griffins were 1-3 in the CACC and 3-8 against all opponents, while Holy Family was 2-1, 8-4.
A Noel Hightower lay-up scrubbed the zero off the home side of the scoreboard at the outset, and Taylor Trevisan started in on his game-high 17-point effort with a three-pointer for the Griffins for an early 5-1 lead. Holy Family responded in kind to go up by one, and the see-saw battle was on. The scoreboard turned over slowly for the first 10 minutes though, with the Griffins and Tigers combining for just a little over 20 points altogether.
The pace picked up after that. Guards Ervin Ezell and Khiry Hankins had a combined 22 points for the visitors by halftime, but CHC had an answer. Guard Billy Cassidy, a small but ever-hustling freshman out of Friends Central, came off the bench to knock down three three-pointers, while Hightower finished the period with seven points and center Filip Sekulic connected down low later in the half, contributing three lay-ups.
After a 32-32 tally was reached at halftime, the Griffins edged ahead 36-34 in the first three minutes of the second frame. Sekulic then sank a hook shot, and after that Trevisan got loose on a breakaway, hitting both a lay-up and a free throw added onto the sequence.
CHC now owned the largest lead of the night, seven points at 41-34, but HFU was soon back within three as guard Alberto Munoz hit a short jumper and a lay-up in succession. Later, the Tigers owned several six-point leads, the last one at 55-49 with under seven minutes remaining in the game.
Cassidy then recorded the last seven of his 16 total points all in a row, sticking standard jumpers from the right and left wings, then going back to the right for a three-point bucket that nudged the home team ahead for good, 56-55.
However, CHC was only able to add a lone lay-up by Sekulic over the next few minutes, and was up by only three points early in the final minute of play. Trevisan hit both shots on a one-and-one with 44 seconds left, making it 60-55. Holy Family missed a “three,” got the ball back on a rebound tie-up, and then failed to locate the cylinder on both a short jumper and a follow-up attempt.
The Griffins had a chance to pretty much ice the win from the foul line, but came up empty on a pair of one-and-one chances. Off target from the open floor, the Tigers couldn’t take advantage of CHC’s free throw flubs, missing three shots from the three-point line, as well as an attempt at a follow-up slam after one of their long balls avoided the hoop.
HFU still had the ball in its possession though, inbounding it with four seconds left and getting a dunk from Munoz to make it 60-57. The Tigers then committed their 10th team foul with 1.2 seconds on the board, and CHC’s Trevisan locked in the final score by bagging both double-bonus free throws.
His 17-point effort put him one ahead of fellow Griffin guard Cassidy, while down low CHC wound up with a dozen points and nine rebounds from Sekulic, and six points and eight boards from its other big man, Seamus Radtke. Guard Christian Walck did not score, but helped the winners with four assists, four steals, and five rebounds.
Holy Family’s scoring centered around Ezell, Hankins, and Munoz, who came away with 15, 14, and 13 points, respectively.