by Tom Utescher
A sizzling start for the shooters of visiting Holy Family University would prove to be a major factor in last Wednesday night’s basketball game at Chestnut Hill College, where the Griffin women suffered their first conference loss, 59-45.
Depositing seven of the 10 three-point shots they launched during the first quarter, the Tigers got out to a 26-10 lead by the end of the opening frame. The Griffins held their guests to just five points in the second stanza and outscored Holy Family 35-33 over the last three quarters of the game, but they never could entirely deflate the Tigers’ first-quarter cushion.
Chestnut Hill slipped to 2-1 in the NCAA Division II Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference and fell to 3-8 overall, while HFU forged above .500 to 5-4 while remaining unbeaten in the CACC, 3-0.
One of Holy Family’s victories came against University of the Sciences, one of the CACC powers in recent years. Tom Shirley, head coach of defending conference champ Jefferson University, stopped by at CHC’s Sorgenti Arena last Wednesday to check out his two CACC rivals. His team would be playing Holy Family just three days later, but wouldn’t see Chestnut Hill until the second half of January.
A product of the university that has become Jefferson is now guiding the CHC women’s program. First-year head coach Jim Connolly played for legendary men’s team mentor Herb Magee at what was then Philadelphia University. He graduated in 2013 and went on to become an assistant coach for the women’s program at the school.
Former Chestnut Hill skipper Mike West had also been a Philly U. assistant prior to coming to Chestnut Hill in the fall of 2015. West has now become an assistant coach at Hofstra University, part of a new coaching regime at the Long Island institution.
With several multi-year impact players having graduated or having left the Chestnut Hill College team, the Griffins’ 2-0 start in conference play was encouraging. Last Wednesday, CHC encountered another CACC team piloted by a new head coach, Holy Family.
Chestnut Hill actually scored the first field goal of the game – a lay-up by sophomore forward Leah Miller – and also deposited the first three-point field goal, which came from junior guard Cassie Sebold in the left corner. Two minutes in, the Griffins were up 5-1, then the rest of the quarter went almost entirely the visitors’ way.
Casey Schweitzer and Mia Ehling became the first of four different Tigers to hit from the three-point arc in the first period as Holy Family made its early deficit seem a distant memory by constructing a 17-2 run in a five-minute span.
After the 26-10 opening period, the scoring dropped off dramatically. During the first seven minutes the visitors added one point to their lead as the scoreboard crawled up to 31-14. Fouled on a successful drive, CHC’s Sebold sank her free throw, as well, and sophomore Rachael Millan penetrated to score for the hosts, setting the halftime tally at 31-19.
The Griffins were close to getting the gap back down into single figures, but as the third quarter unfolded they only managed to score two points on a lone lay-up in over five minutes. Freshman Moe Moore accounted for eight points in a 10-2 HFU run during this stretch. CHC’s Miller and fellow sophomore forward Bri Hewlett each scored five points later in the third frame to help the Griffins steady themselves, but once again Chestnut Hill was simply making up ground it had lost earlier.
The hosts were edged, 14-12, in the third-quarter scoring, and the fourth round was a 14-14 standoff that led to a 14-point victory for the Tigers.
Moore, with a game-high 15 points, was one of four scorers in double figures for Holy Family. Chestnut Hill was paced by 11 points from Sebold and nine from Miller, who also led their team in rebounds with seven and nine boards, respectively.