by Tom Utescher
The men’s basketball team at Chestnut Hill College entered the season hoping to turn things around after a 5-21 finish to the 2017-18 schedule. Unfortunately, with the team’s primary point guard sidelined by injury and another talented player parting ways with the program after the first semester, the Griffins seem to facing an uphill battle once more.
At home last Wednesday night, CHC saw an 80-51 loss to Delaware’s Goldey Beacom College lower its record to 0-10 within the Central Atlantic Athletic Conference and 3-16 overall. The Lightning, who had led 42-21 at halftime, returned to Wilmington at 7-4, 9-11.
Longtime Griffins head coach Jesse Balcer remarked, “I don’t like saying it, but I have to admit that this game was typical of a lot of our games this season. The other team was very good, and we didn’t help ourselves with a lot of the things we were doing.”
The scoreboard turned over relatively slowly as Wednesday’s contest got underway, and with field goals by seniors Tony Toplin Jr., Dexter Thompson and Liban Awl Chestnut Hill led 6-2 about four minutes in. The Lightning quickly took over the lead for good with back-to-back three-point field goals (they would make 11 of them and CHC had none in the game), and with nine minutes elapsed the visitors were ahead by double figures, 18-8. The course of events followed the same general direction until Goldey Beacom was perched on a 21-point cushion at halftime.
With the visitors ahead 53-27 around six minutes into the second half, the home team strung a few productive possessions together. Keyon Butler, a freshman out of Archbishop Carroll, sandwiched a pair of made free throws and a reverse lay-up around a basket in transition by Alex Rogat, a 6’7” freshman from Vienna, Austria by way of Mercersburg Academy.
The 6-0 spurt narrowed the gap to 20 points, but the Lightning soon expanded their lead again.
In the final 10 minutes, the Griffins briefly brought their deficit down to 18 points, but it soared as high as 31 down the stretch before Butler converted off of an offensive rebound for the final points of the evening. The rookie had kept battling all night to produce a double-double consisting of 19 points and 11 rebounds. Next on the list of CHC scorers was senior Roman Letterlough, with eight points.
Lightning senior Mahir Johnson poured in 27 points to lead a quartet of double-digit scorers for the victors.
CHC’s Balcer commented, “Keyon’s going to be a real good four-year player. I think that way about this group of freshmen as a whole, but they’re not ready to carry the entire load right now.”
Contemplating the final weeks of the season, the coach admitted, “I’m kind of walking a tightrope right now. I have some seniors who are good guys and who have been committed to the program, and I don’t want to stop playing them at the end of their career. On the other hand, we need to develop the players who are going to lead us in the future.”