Jefferson Rams senior Yevgen Sakhniuk goes up to grab a rebound as CHC junior Dexter Thompson (left) waits for him to land. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Chestnut Hill College owned a 34-24 halftime lead in last Tuesday’s Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference men’s basketball bout at Jefferson University, which was known as Philadelphia University until recently.

In the second period the lead began to slip away from the visiting Griffins, as Jefferson (still the “Rams”) took the lead for good with under five minutes left in the second half and secured a 66-61 victory.

Junior transfer Cartier Talford produced a team-high 16 points for CHC, and 11 more came from fellow guard Demetrius Isaac, a senior out of Penn Charter. Adding nine points from the three-point line was freshman Colin Flach, a guard from Glenside who played at Roman Catholic High School.

Jefferson was powered by double-digit scoring from senior guard Kaison Randolph, with a game-high 19 points, freshman guard Alex Gorton, with 13, and senior forward Yevgen Sakhniuk, with 12. Sakhniuk, from Ukraine, pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds to help JU enjoy a 38-27 advantage on the boards.

The Rams raised their record to 2-0 in-conference and 6-5 overall, while CHC slipped to 0-2, 1-7.

“Our team is still trying to put two good halves together, and you’ve got to do that against a team like Jefferson.” observed CHC head coach Jesse Balcer, who played for legendary Jefferson skipper Herb Magee back when the school was the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science.

“Our rebounding has been a little inconsistent,” he continued, “and on defense in this game we held them to 24 points in the first half and then gave up 42 in the second.”

After yielding the first five points of the night to the Rams, Chestnut Hill drew even at 8-8 about seven minutes in. After that, not much separated the two teams until they were tied at 23-all with under four minutes remaining in the first half.

Fouled on a successful lay-up, Griffins junior Liban Awl tacked on the free throw to put the visitors up by three. Subbing into the game, CHC freshman Rich Dean, Jr. bagged a three-pointer, and when Awl was fouled after stealing the ball, he deposited a pair of free throws for a 31-23 Chestnut Hill lead with a minute-and-a-half to go.

CHC freshman Colin Flach (right) looks to a teammate in the paint while guarded by Jefferson University senior Kaison Randolph. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Jefferson’s Randolph and the Griffins’ Talford traded single free throws, and with four seconds on the clock Penn Charter grad Isaac hit a short jumper from the lane to send his club into the locker room up 34-24. Flach, who had subbed in for Chestnut Hill early in the half, led all scorers at the break with nine points from the three-point loop.

“The 10-point lead at halftime was kind of a blessing for us,” CHC Balcer said, “but I knew they would make a game of it in the second half.”

CHC’s lead actually peaked at 11 points early in the second round, when a trey by Talford made it 39-28. After that, two lay-ups apiece by Jefferson’s Sakhniuk and Gorton powered an 11-0 run by the Rams that tied the game five minutes into the half.

“We seem to get into these lulls where we can’t score for a few minutes,” Balcer remarked. “When we do that, we really need to play good defense, and in this game we didn’t play well enough on “D” when we weren’t scoring.”

The offense got going again for the Griffins, but they would not come close to regaining a double-digit lead. After slipping behind 53-49 later on, CHC led one last time when a jumper from just above the foul line by Isaac and a three-pointer by Awl made it 54-53 with five minutes left.

A drive down the lane by Randolph tipped the scale toward the home team, and this was the start of a 7-0 spurt that included two made free throws by Sakhniuk and a trey by Randolph.

Chestnut Hill was still within three points of the host team (64-61) with less than half-a-minute remaining. The Griffins got the ball back with 22 seconds left when a charge was called against the Rams. Following a time-out, CHC missed a three-point shot and then fouled the rebounder, Jefferson’s Gorton.

In a double bonus situation, the freshman made both free throws to stamp the final score in the books.

Awl finished with eight points in the losing cause, as did junior Tony Toplin, Jr.

Looking forward, CHC’s Balcer noted, “Right now we have two guys out for academic reasons, but they’ll be back next week and that should help us. I’m seeing progress with our team, but we need to start winning some of these close games.”