by Tom Utescher
Facing the 15th-ranked Division II team in the nation, the women of Chestnut Hill College hung close for awhile against visiting Holy Family University, but by halftime of last Thursday’s game the Griffins trailed 39-26. The Tigers continued to pull away after that, and CHC succumbed, 87-51, in its first encounter of 2011.

The Griffins, who were only behind by one point 11 minutes into the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference clash, slipped to 1-3 in conference play and 3-8 overall, while Holy Family remained unbeaten in the CACC (5-0) and rose to 8-2 against all opponents.

Falling just short of double figures in scoring, CHC sophomores Lindsay Alexander (three rebounds) and Asha Jones (three assists, three steals) provided nine points apiece for the hosts, who received eight points from sophomore Latoya Laing and seven from Marqesah Spicer, also second-year players for CHC. Senior center Cecelia Herald gave the Griffins six points and six rebounds on the night.

For some of the Tigers, Thursday’s road trip was not an unfamiliar one. Four members of the club played for Catholic Academies League teams in high school, and participated in a number of games right down the street at Mount St. Joseph Academy.

Sophomore forward Erin Mann, a former Villa Maria standout who did serious damage against Mount St. Joe every time the two teams played, put up 13 points, three steals, and two blocks in Thursday’s game, while a couple of three-pointers figured into a 12-point evening for freshman Mary Ellen McCollum, formerly of St. Basil Academy.

Right behind with 11 points was another Basil’s alum, Samantha Thompson, who played three years for Duquesne University, missed her senior season due to injury, and now is a grad student at Holy Family. The Tigers’ Carolyne Heston, a freshman out of Villa Joseph Marie, saw limited action in last week’s game at CHC.

Receiving passes on quick cuts to the basket, Mann scored the first two field goals of the night, then a Jones lay-up got the Griffins on the board. Alexander connected on two drives and on a three-point shot, and Herald came off the bench to hit a midrange jumper and score twice off of offensive rebounds.

This allowed the hosts to keep pace with the highly-ranked visitors, and when CHC junior Kamia Smith sank a three-pointer from the top of the key, the Griffins were just one point behind (19-18) with 9:23 to go in the first half. After the Tigers failed to produce on their next possession, Chestnut Hill had a chance to go ahead, but Herald’s shot from the paint was blocked by Holy Family, which had senior standout Catherine Carr (14 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists) convert two free throws at the other end.

Following Mann’s fourth lay-up of the half, which made it 23-18, a trey by CHC’s Laing got it back to a two-point game, but Holy Family reeled off eight straight points after that. The anxious Griffins began to force up shots, and they never got so close again.