by Tom Utescher

Last Saturday afternoon the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Chestnut Hill College delighted home fans by winning both games of a Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference doubleheader in Sorgenti Arena.

Nyack College, located north of New York City hard by the Tappan Zee Bridge, has had a tough winter on the hardwood, and the Warriors’ luck didn’t change last weekend. They lost the women’s game, 85-57, and then saw hopes of an upset on the men’s side fade away in an 81-76 setback.

The female Griffins of CHC were struggling mightily themselves during the first half of the season, but Saturday’s success was the third win in their last five outings, and they reached a record of 4-9 in the CACC and 5-15 overall. The Chestnut Hill men rose to 9-2 in conference play, and 16-7 with non-league contests added in.

The Nyack men went away still looking for their first victory, now 0-11, 0-21, while the Warrior ladies weren’t much more fortunate, with their 1-11, 1-16 record.

The visiting women stayed with the Griffins right into the early minutes of the second half. In fact, CHC had to call its first time-out with six minutes and 13 seconds elapsed, having fallen behind, 9-5.

A rebound conversion by senior Ebony Washington and a jumper by freshman Tenisha Townsend-Mobley tied the game, and soon after that another rookie guard, Olivia Gorczynski, got her 10-point first half underway with a three-pointer from the left corner. The Warriors didn’t go away, though, and Chestnut Hill needed a last-second drive by junior Marqesah Spicer to enjoy a five-point cushion at halftime, 41-36.

More than three minutes into the second period, Nyack was one point closer, at 44-40. CHC senior forward Ashlen Stayrook, a spark off the bench for the Griffins all season long, popped in a short jumper and a free throw to launch a 13-0 offensive. Spicer and junior Lindsay Alexander scored off of their own steals, then Gorcyznski nicked the ball from Nyack and fed Townsend-Mobley for another breakaway bucket.

Alexander had started the game, but then spent almost half of the opening period on the bench. Now she came back to accumulate most of her stats in the second half, ending up with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

After the CHC spurt, there was a relatively even exchange of points until the board showed a 67-51 tally with eight minutes to go. Then the home team dialed up its defense while continuing to score, allowing only one Nyack field goal the rest of the way as the margin approached 30 points.

Stayrook tied Alexander for scoring honors with 15 points, and Gorczynski came away with 13 points, five assists, and four steals for the winners. The Griffins got a dozen points from Spicer, 10 points and nine rebounds from Washington, and eight points apiece from Townsend-Mobley and junior Latoya Laing. Khamari Tellis scored 12 points to lead four double-digit scorers for the Warriors, who received 10 points from guard Cassandra McNeill, a senior out of Philadelphia’s Simon Gratz High School.

In the second game, the Chestnut Hill men were never able to break free from the persistent Warriors. Trailing 12-8 early, the Griffins appeared to make a significant move with consecutive three-pointers by junior Mark DiRugeris, freshman Luke Dickson, and senior Brandon Williams, followed by a coast-to-coast romp for a lay-up by junior Francis Ashe. This 11-0 outburst moved the hosts ahead, 19-12, but a “three” and a transition lay-up got the visitors right back in it.

This pattern played out all afternoon. The Griffins gained a 29-21 advantage, but the Warriors rallied to tie the score at 32-all. Chestnut Hill went up 40-34, then had to settle for a 42-40 edge at the half.

In the opening stages of the second period, the hosts increased their lead to seven, but Nyack clicked off two field goals for a 51-48 tally. Ahead 60-54 with 11 minutes remaining, the Griffins seemed to shake off the Warriors at last, with senior center Dan Comas throwing down two dunks and adding a tip-in with a free throw. A DiRugeris drive capped off the 9-2 charge to make it 69-56 with under nine minutes to go, then a three-pointer rekindled Nyack and ignited a 10-2 rally for the Warriors.

So it went until Chestnut Hill called its final time-out with 31.8 seconds left to play, holding a 79-76 advantage with 22 seconds on the shot clock. Griffins sophomore Jakeem Bogans drove into the lane until he met resistance below the foul line. He leapt up at an awkward angle, but still made the off-balance jumper for an 81-76 count.

After the officials adjusted the clock from 9.4 to 11.9 seconds remaining, Nyack’s Khalid Samuels missed a three-point attempt from the right corner and the Warriors had to foul CHC’s Ashe. He missed the front end of a one-and-one with 2.6 seconds to play, but all the visitors could do after that was heave an off-target shot from near mid-court.

Back on February 1st, DiRugeris had become the third CHC player this season to reach 1000 points in his college career (the others were Comas and Williams), and against Nyack he put up nine points and four assists. On this occasion, more of the offensive load was carried by Comas (18 points, 13 rebounds, three assists), Bogans (16 points, six rebounds), Ashe (13 points, six rebounds), and Williams (12 points, four rebounds, four assists). Leading the Warriors were freshman Chris Hampton and Jose Pena-Benjamin, with 21 and 18 points, respectively.