Cheltenham High grad Shayla Felder (right), now a junior at Chestnut Hill College, tries to duck past Philadelphia University’s Mary Newell, who played in the Catholic Academies League while at Villa Joseph Marie. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Cheltenham High grad Shayla Felder (right), now a junior at Chestnut Hill College, tries to duck past Philadelphia University’s Mary Newell, who played in the Catholic Academies League while at Villa Joseph Marie. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Although their record is 5-10 within the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference and 7-15 overall, the Chestnut Hill College women have put up stiff resistance against a number of good teams this winter.

That was the case in the first half of last Tuesday evening’s home court conference game, but in the second period the Griffins experienced an uncharacteristic collapse. Of course, the fact that they were facing conference leader Philadelphia University (14-0, 16-5) had a lot to do with it.

Only ahead 38-33 at the intermission, the Lady Rams quickly lifted their lead into double figures when play resumed, continuing on to an 85-59 victory.

While longtime Philly U. coach Tom Shirley couldn’t have foreseen his squad being undefeated in-conference this late in the season, he felt from the outset that this particular group could do some special things.

“You never really know what’s going to happen, but I thought we had the pieces,” the Lady Rams’ skipper said. “I thought we basically had eight starters. We can shoot, we can dribble, we can defend, we can rebound, and we have the overall athleticism to be pretty good.”

A key starter for Shirley’s club is Monica Schacker, a junior guard out of Germantown Academy who is the second-leading scorer and is shooting over 40 percent from the three-point arc. A freshman from Mount St. Joseph Academy, Kelsey Jones, is red-shirting this season due to injury, while a former Mount opponent, Villa Joseph Marie’s Mary Newell, is a sophomore who provides a powerful presence in the paint.

“In a way,” Shirley said, “it’s a pleasant surprise that so far we have not had a single offensive or defensive player-of-the-week in the conference. That speaks to our team balance; we’re consistent and we’re averaging four scorers in double figures.”

He notes that his program has built a reputation for attracting Philadelphia-area players who enjoy playing college ball in front of their families and friends.

It also doesn’t hurt that many of them come from very solid high school programs, such as former Archbishop Wood forwards Tori Arnao and Alex Heck, now both Lady Ram sophomores. The guards include sophomore Bria Young, whose Prep Charter team was a Philadelphia Public League power, and Najah Jacobs, an accomplished junior out of Central High School.

Last Tuesday, Newell scored several lay-ups at the outset and Chestnut Hill answered with inside offense from seniors Aimee Bouie and Annie Farrow as the score climbed to 8-8 over the first six minutes or so. Outside scoring from Schacker and four straight free throws by Heck helped the visitors break away to a 20-10 lead with eight minutes to play in the first half.

The Griffins got back in it with a 7-0 burst, as a three-pointer from sophomore guard Brittany McDonough was followed by an inside scoring move from Farrow and a midrange jumper by junior guard Shayla Felder. Later, another “three” by McDonough had the hosts just one points behind, 27-26, and although CHC never went into the lead, it was still just a five-point game at the break, 38-33.

The situation changed rapidly once the second half got underway. With less than two minutes elapsed, Chestnut Hill had to call a time-out, now down by double digits at 46-33. Nine minutes later, Philly U. was ahead by 20 points, and the Griffins never put together a serious rally.

“Our defense dictated the second half,” Coach Shirley commented. “We changed our defense and went to a trap, kind of a run-and-jump. They struggled to handle that, and then that helped us get out on the break. I also though they had difficulty handling Mary Newell; she was just a little too big and strong for them.”

The final margin was 26 points, and Chestnut Hill had actually scored the last five points of the game. With a game-high in both points (18) and rebounds (nine), Newell led a list of five Lady Ram scorers in double figures. Young had 14 points and Schacker and senior guard Samantha Morris scored 13 apiece, with Arnao adding a dozen points along with eight rebounds. Overall, Philly U. handily won the rebounding battle, 46-31.

Tenisha Townsend-Mobley paced CHC with 14 points, and she and another junior guard, Olivia Gorczynski (four points) led the Griffins on the boards with five rebounds apiece. Bouie came away with 12 points and Felder with eight, while McDonough scored six points and gave out four assists.

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