by Tom Utescher
In last Wednesday’s Southern Division clash in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, the women of Chestnut Hill College locked up a place in the playoffs with a 73-67 victory over visiting Georgian Court University.
It looked like it was going to be easy early in the second quarter, when the Griffins surged to a 19-point lead. The visiting Lions, who hail from just north of Tom’s River, N.J., clawed their way back into the game, and they actually inched in front of CHC midway through the fourth quarter.
After the Griffins headed into the final minute leading 68-67, they scored the last five points of the evening on five-for-six shooting from the free throw line.
Rising to a record of 11-3 in the conference and 15-8 overall, Chestnut Hill assured itself of a return trip to the CACC tournament. Georgian Court re-crossed the Delaware at 2-13, 4-18.
“Their record isn’t very good, but they play really hard,” said CHC head coach Mike West. “I knew they weren’t going to go away. This is one of the few teams that really wants to run with us, and we don’t see that too often.”
The Lions led 8-7 midway through the first quarter, then CHC junior point guard Mary Trossi scored twice in transition and tacked a free throw onto her second lay-up. Freshman guard Cassie Sebold came off the bench to chip in with two free throws and a three-pointer. Another first-year Griffin, Rachel Millan, bagged a jumper from a step above the foul line to end the quarter with a 22-10 Chestnut Hill lead.
At the start of the second round, a trey by Georgian Court was matched by Griffins senior Vicky Tumasz, and this exchange was followed by field goals from the paint by CHC forwards Tomiaya Graham (a senior) and Jaeda Wildgoose (a junior), and by Sebold. When Graham made the second of two free throws, Chestnut Hill led 32-13 with six minutes remaining in the first half.
The Lions dug in and kept the game from getting entirely out of hand with a 13-2 rally that cut their deficit to eight points (34-26) late in the second quarter. In the last 70 seconds two free throws by Wildgoose and a lay-up by Graham got the Griffins back to a double-digit lead for the intermission, 38-26.
Several conversions off of steals, along with some other transition baskets, had formed the backbone of the Georgian Court comeback.
“We missed some shots we normally make, and that helped them get the ball out quickly,” West explained. “They threw the ball ahead and got some good shots.”
West’s team increased its lead to 15 points early in the third period (41-26), but then was outscored by the Lions, 26-15, in the remainder of the third quarter. The Griffins held only a four-point advantage going into the final frame, 56-52.
“We had some defensive miscues at times,” noted CHC’s West. “We had a few little offensive droughts, as well, but I don’t worry about them too much. I’m confident in our offense, and we just need one shot to go in to get us going again. I did think that we needed to get the ball up the sideline more quickly; for a while, our transition game was not matching theirs.”
Through the first four minutes of the fourth quarter the Lions were nipping at Chestnut Hill’s heels. Then with a little over five minutes remaining in the game, Georgian Court claimed a 63-62 lead on a three-pointer from the right wing by Carna Prokic, a junior guard from Serbia.
Wildgoose fought her way inside, missed a lay-up, then rebounded her own shot and converted. After a lone free throw by visiting senior Jaelyn Tweedy tied the bout at 64-all, CHC scored in transition on a lay-up by
Graham and then had Sebold steal the ball back and score. This put the hosts up by four points.
As the clock cut into the final 90 seconds, the Lions’ Tweedy tossed in a trey to make it a one-point contest (68-67), and CHC then turned the ball over while trying to make a pass going into the lane. Fortunately for the Griffins, they regained possession when sophomore Shannon Glenn took the ball off of the visitors along the sideline near midcourt.
This led to a foul on Trossi by the Lions, and the junior deposited the second of two free throws for a 69-67 Chestnut Hill lead with 52.9 seconds left to play. On their next offensive sequence, the Lions missed a shot and Sebold collected the rebound for Chestnut Hill. The Griffins set up on offense, and the Lions allowed the better part of 20 seconds tick away before stopping the clock by fouling Sebold.
“I was very surprised because we didn’t expect to be holding the ball that long before they fouled,” West related. “I yelled ‘bring the ball out’ and we were able to slow down a bit.”
With 10.6 seconds left, Sebold made both free throws and had the hosts ahead by four points, 71-67.
The visitors took a time-out and then got the ball inbounds to forward Destiny Thompson on the baseline a few steps to the right of the basket. She got off a sort of fading hook shot that wouldn’t go down, and when CHC’s Trossi scooted in to rebound the miss, she was fouled. She scored the final two points of the night from the free throw line.
Last season, CHC’s Glenn won the CACC Rookie of the Year Award, and this winter it looks like Sebold could receive the same recognition from the conference. In December and January the 5’5″ freshman guard was named CACC Rookie of the Week five times in a row.
“Like a lot of good freshmen, it took a little while for her to become accustomed to the college game, then once she did she really got going,” Coach West commented. “She’s a really nice weapon to have off the bench, because she can go in for so many people and help us in so many different ways.”
With 14 points last Wednesday, Sebold (three steals) was second in scoring on the team to Wildgoose, who recorded 17 points. Wildgoose gathered in eight rebounds, as did both Trossi (11 points) and Glenn (eight points). Graham contributed 10 points to the victory, and sophomore guard Cailey Gibson had two points, seven rebounds and a team-high five assists.
The Lions’ Tweedy was prominent on the Georgian Court stat sheet, with 21 points and 12 rebounds (both game highs), along with four assists and two steals.
Although the Griffins have assured themselves of a spot in the CACC tournament, more wins down the stretch could help them gain home court advantage early in the playoffs.
“Our word this year is ‘finish,'” West revealed, “so now we’re trying to finish the season as strong as we can. We still have some good teams left ahead of us. The players are excited and they know they need to be focused because we still have something to play for. The best thing is just for us to play the way that we have most of the season, because that’s how we’ve gotten to where we are now.”