CHC senior Ashlen Stayrook (center) tries to move in for a rebound over the objections of Kutztown’s Aly York (left) and Avery Hodgson (right). (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

In their home basketball opener, the women of Chestnut Hill College stayed with Kutztown University through much of the first half, but the erratic nature of the Griffins’ performance eventually took its toll and the steady effort of the visiting Golden Bears earned them a 69-55 victory. CHC was only down by four points with six minutes to go in the first half, but Kutztown pulled away with a 10-0 run and the hosts couldn’t recover.

Trailing by 21 points during the second stanza, the Griffins got the gap down to nine with 90 seconds to go, but got no closer.

Kutztown traveled back upstate with a record of 2-5, while Chestnut Hill had to head into conference play with an 0-5 mark overall.

“We’ve made these second-half runs in some other games, too,” reported first-year coach Laura Pruitt, “But you expend a lot of energy when you have to keep trying to come back on people. The thing is to play more consistently and not get that far behind to begin with.”

Six early points from forward Lindsay Alexander helped the Griffins gain a 9-8 edge a little over five minutes into Wednesday’s contest, then the Bears went ahead for good with a 7-0 charge. Still, with Latoya Laing bagging a three-pointer and fellow guard Marqesah Spicer scoring off a steal, the hosts stayed close. When CHC senior Aiesha Smith successfully drove the lane with six minutes left in the opening round, it was just a four-point game, with Kutztown ahead 21-17.

Chestnut Hill’s offense pretty much evaporated for the remainder of the half, as the Bears finished it off with a 12-3 push that made it 33-20 at the intermission.

“We weren’t shooting the ball well – the shot selection was terrible,” Pruitt admitted. “We’ve been emphasizing making the extra pass and using the shot clock, but tonight we didn’t do that. A solid team like Kutztown will make you pay for rushing your offense.”

Some players went solo in an effort to lift the Griffins back into contention, and their haste produced fundamental flaws, such as shooting off-balance and failing to square up to the basket.

Through much of the game, Kutztown got steady production from front row players Steph Zewe (14 points, 13 rebounds) and Avery Hodgson (12 points, six rebounds), and there were bursts of offense from guards Andrea Sisson (16 points, seven assists) and Ashley Wood (10 points, five assists).

CHC seemed destined for a big-ticket defeat when the visitors bumped their lead up near 20 points early in the second half, and peaked out at 21 points, 47-26, about six minutes in. The Griffins called a time-out and were able to keep from sliding into the abyss.

“We played better after that,” Pruitt said. “The girls who went in for us dug in down the stretch, and if it weren’t for that, it could’ve gotten ugly. Toya [Laing] had a good shooting night; she’s been working hard and she took advantage of the opportunity to play.”

Laing, who stuck a three-pointer and a baseline shot earlier in the game, came on for the Griffins with three minutes remaining, adding seven consecutive points with another trey and shorter jumpers from each side of the floor. That tightened the score from 62-46 to 62-53 with 1:31 on the clock, but the Griffins missed a pair of free throws that could’ve made it a seven-point game. Kutztown recovered and went five-for-six from the foul line to stabilize the situation.

Pruitt praised the effort of her seniors – Smith and forwards Ebony Washington and Ashlen Stayrook – during the second half. Smith led the squad in scoring with 15 points, and Washington hauled in 10 rebounds.