Displaying her customary intensity, CHC senior forward Jaeda Wildgoose (with ball) is determined to advance past Goldey Beacom’s Alanna Speakes (right). (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

As the final month of the basketball season approaches, things seem to be starting to click for the Chestnut Hill College women. Last Wednesday evening in the friendly confines of Sorgenti Arena, the Griffins recorded their third win in a row, fending off a late charge by the visiting Lightning of Goldey Beacom College for a 79-74 victory.

The result was a 4-6 record within the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference and a 6-12 mark overall. A week earlier, CHC had defeated Wilmington (Del.) University, 92-62, and over the weekend the Griffins turned away another CACC school, Concordia College, 62-51.

Goldey Beacom (5-6, 9-11), also located in Wilmington, is coached by 2006 CHC graduate and 1000-point scorer Bethann (Castone) Burke. Burke has apparently been doing some recruiting by reindeer, since two members of her current squad are from Finland.

Fourth-year Chestnut Hill mentor Mike West said that some of his older players who were giving some sub-par performances early in the season are “finding their groove,” while his five freshmen have gotten over the initial stumbling blocks on the path to learning the college game.

“They’ve seen a lot of playing time, so they’re really not freshmen any longer,” he said. “Recently, different people have been stepping up on different nights.

“Last Sunday, our freshman post player [Leah Miller] had 14 points and 17 rebounds, and it’s our other post player [senior Jaeda Wildgoose] who is actually our leading scorer. You add in some speedy point guards and some outside shooters, and you have a lot of things that aren’t easy for teams to defend.”

On Wednesday, it was Lauren Crim’s turn to take center stage. A freshman guard out of Lansdale Catholic, Crim went five-for-seven from the three-point line as part of a team-high 21-point night. Junior Shannon Glenn hit four three’s, registering 16 points and eight rebounds, while sophomore guard Cassie Sebold netted 13 points and made six of her eight free throws. Wildgoose scored nine points and collected a game-high 12 rebounds.

Wildgoose scored three times from the paint in the first three minutes, helping force a Goldey Beacom time-out with CHC ahead 12-8. Glenn came off the bench and found the hoop from longer range, and senior point guard Mary Trossi scored back-to-back lay-ups in transition to end the first quarter with the Griffins up by six, 22-16.

Another Lightning time-out was needed after Sebold and Crim hit a lay-up and a trey, respectively, in the first minute of the second period for a 27-16 tally. This time the peptalk had a noticeable effect. Although play resumed with an inside bucket by Griffins freshman Bri Hewlett, over the next four-and-a-half minutes the visitors scored inside and out in a 14-0 spree that gave them a 30-29 edge.

Abby Spratt, a freshman guard for the Griffins, drives to the basket to score the final points of the third quarter last Wednesday. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

The score bumped up to 32-31, then with a dozen seconds left in the half Glenn put in a pair of free throws to have the Griffins up 33-32 at the intermission.

So how did they let Goldey Beacom get back in the game in the second quarter?

“We relaxed,” Coach West replied. “We saw a 13-point lead and we somehow thought we could cruise. We missed some shots, and then that affected our defensive mentality and they capitalized. They began to hit some shots that they had been missing, and there you are.”

In the third quarter, CHC struck the Lightning from a distance. It started with back-to-back three-pointers by Sebold, and continued with a pair of treys by Crim while CHC also mixed things up with a little inside offense from Wildgoose, Trossi and Miller. Glenn tossed a “three” from the top of the key early in the final minute, and at the end a drive through the middle by freshman Abbey Spratt sent the Griffins into round four with a 60-44 advantage.

Five minutes in, Chestnut Hill was still comfortably ahead, 68-54, right after another freshman, Morgan Orloski, hooped a “three” from the right flank. Over the next four minutes, though, a trey by Glenn was the all the Griffin offense could manage as Goldey Beacom blended lay-ups and jumpers in a 14-3 run that made it a three-point affair (71-68).

CHC’s position seemed to stabilize early in the final minute when Glenn made two free throws and a lay-up missed by Lightning forward Alexis Harrison was rebounded by Sebold. After a time-out, the Griffins were inbounding the ball from their own defensive baseline, but a turnover led directly to a lay-up Harrison for a 73-70 tally.

Sebold stretched the lead to five with two free throws, and the visitors called time-out with 21.7 seconds remaining. Sebold stole the ball back, drew another foul and once more made both shots from the stripe. An Amanda McGrogan lay-up got Goldey back within five (77-72) with 14 seconds left, but then McGrogan fouled out of the game and sent CHC’s Crim to the line to make two shots.

In the final seconds, the visitors got a lay-up from Alanna Speakes, but that just reduced the final margin from seven to five points.

“We were attacking well on offense tonight, and everybody was a threat,” West said afterward. “Collectively, we’re starting to play the way I knew we could.”