Nationally ranked Jefferson women rally late to defeat Chestnut Hill

by Tom Utescher
Posted 2/14/24

Jefferson University's basketball team has a target on its back, and last Tuesday the women of Chestnut Hill College took aim at it.

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Nationally ranked Jefferson women rally late to defeat Chestnut Hill


Jefferson University's basketball team has a target on its back, and last Tuesday evening the women of Chestnut Hill College were taking aim at it. In this clash of Northwest Philly members of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, the hosting Lady Rams of Jefferson were undefeated in conference play, with only one loss all season against non-league opponents.

At several points during Tuesday's tilt, it looked as though the CHC Griffins might pull off an upset, as they led by 15 points at one stage in the second quarter, and by 14 in the third. The Lady Rams were back within eight at the three-quarter mark (48-40), and then they simply ran away from Chestnut Hill in the fourth period, outscoring their guests 32-13 to claim a 72-61 victory.

Jefferson came into Tuesday's game ranked sixth in the country in the NCAA Division II coaches poll, with the win the Lady Rams improved to 20-1 overall and 10-0 in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference. Their only loss was to Bloomsburg University in early December, when they also won their first clash with Chestnut Hill, 57-51.

The Griffins could not be taken lightly, though. A victory on February 1 gave them an 11-game win streak, the longest in Division II's East Region at the time. They'd lost to Post University on February 3, but still arrived at Jefferson with a mark of 9-2 in the CACC and 15-6 overall.

The teams were neck-and-neck up to a 10-10 tie, then the Lady Rams pulled ahead, 14-10. The Griffins answered with a 12-0 run. Sophomore guard Sara Tamoun (who would score a game-high 17 points) came off the CHC bench to hit two three-pointers and a breakaway lay-up during this surge, which also featured a pair of short jumpers by senior forward Lindsey Lane.

Senior guard Morgan Robinson broke the Jefferson drought with a jumper of her own, then CHC freshman guard Bridie McCann bagged a 15-footer to end the first quarter with a 24-16 Chestnut Hill advantage.

Tamoun kept rolling, starting the second round with a short jumper and a three-point bucket. When junior center Emily Sekerak put in an eight-footer, the visitors led 31-16 about two-and-a-half minutes into the period. The Lady Rams' post player, Cassie Murphy, surprised the Griffins with a pair of mid-range jumpers, helping the hosts rally.

Senior Emily Keehfuss chipped in with a three-pointer, and other contributions came from junior Sam Yencha and freshman Emily Spratt. Overall, Yencha (the only athlete to play all 40 minutes) and Spratt would lead the Jefferson scorers with 15 and 13 total points, respectively.

Jefferson pared the CHC lead down to seven points by halftime (37-30), and there was an eight-point gap (48-40) at the three-quarter mark. In between, though, three three-pointers by McCann helped the visitors attain a 14-point advantage with two minutes remaining. Yencha and Spratt led the Lady Rams on a 6-0 run to end the period.

Ahead by eight at the end of the third quarter, CHC picked up a free throw early in the fourth, but Jefferson scored the next 11 points to edge ahead, 51-49. Keehfuss and Kaya Burkhart hit from a three-point loop, and Yencha scored down low. She would ring up nine points during the pivotal final frame.

The Lady Rams' Robinson played a fine all-around game, finishing with eight points, six assists, and four rebounds. She led everyone in steals with a relatively modest total of four, but she indirectly caused other turnovers with her hustle, making her an important factor in Jefferson's late turnaround.

Chestnut Hill only managed one point during the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, getting outscored 15-1. Later, Griffins freshman Caraline Herb hooped two three-pointers, but the other CHC perimeter shooters who'd been productive earlier in the game had gone cold. Unfortunately for the visitors, they were missing a number of lay-ups, as well.

Near the end, the visitors had to start fouling to slow down the clock, but the Lady Rams shot seven-for-nine from the line in the final minute of the game.

Chestnut Hill was not slated to return to action for a week and a half, while Jefferson improved to 21-1 overall and 11-0 in the CACC by drubbing Bloomfield (N.J.) University on Saturday, 94-57.