CHC makes first trip to summer league finals, Jefferson upset

by Tom Utescher
Posted 8/18/21

On August 5, Chestnut Hill won a quarterfinal contest for the first time, putting up a 72-64 victory against a fourth-seeded Sky Blue squad consisting of players from Holy Family University.

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CHC makes first trip to summer league finals, Jefferson upset

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Decades ago, the Philadelphia/Suburban Women's Summer Basketball League got its start in Chestnut Hill, and in 2021 the women of Chestnut Hill College appeared in the league's championship game for the first time.

The summer Griffins had fashioned a true Cinderella story. Playing under their warm-weather alias of Team Orange, the CHC women began the season as a franchise that had never advanced past the quarterfinal round of the league playoffs, if it got into the playoffs at all.

Winning a few contests late in the regular season after a slow start this year, Team Orange earned the fifth seed for the postseason tournament, and would wind up facing several teams made up largely of athletes from schools that are fellow members of the NCAA Division II Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference.

On August 5, Chestnut Hill won a quarterfinal contest for the first time, putting up a 72-64 victory against a fourth-seeded Sky Blue squad consisting of players from Holy Family University.

Both the league semifinals and finals were played last week on Wednesday and Thursday, and in the semis CHC Orange prevailed 51-45 over Team Maroon. The second seed for the playoffs, Maroon had a roster made up entirely of currently active players from the University of the Sciences. In the other semifinal bout on Wednesday, top-seeded and previously unbeaten Team Black from Jefferson University fell, 44-38, to the sixth seed, Team Pink.

Pink featured an interesting mix of players centered around a core of USciences alumni. Complementing them were a few current Division III players (Dickinson, Franklin & Marshall) out of Jenkintown High School, and another Jenkintown grad who plays club basketball at Penn State's main campus. Also thrown in was an older Cornell alum who had attended St. Basil's Academy of the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies.

At the very end, Team Orange's Cinderella carriage turned back into a pumpkin, as Team Pink pulled out a 41-34 victory over the CHC ladies in Thursday's league championship game.

While many of the members of Team Pink were past their college playing days, they'd only been out of school for a few years, and most had played together. They also brought 11 players to the semifinal fray on Wednesday night, while Jefferson Black pretty much forfeited whatever fitness edge it may have had when only seven Lady Rams showed up.

In a gym that lacked air conditioning, the veteran Pinksters knew what to do: sub frequently and run the floor. They bagged three early three-point shots to go up 11-4, but late in the first quarter Team Black pulled even at 11-all when Haley Meinel hit two free throws. The teams went neck-and-neck through much of the second period, arriving at halftime locked up at 22-22.

Black was ahead 27-25 with three-and-a-half minutes left in the third round, but the Pink ladies took over the lead and were threatening to pull away as they earned a six-point advantage, 34-28. Near the end, though, the USciences alums left Meinel wide open on the left wing, and she knocked down a "three" to make it 34-31 at the three-quarter mark.

Things didn't change much over the first half of the final period, with Pink still ahead by a little, 39-37. The lead grew to four points with Irisa Ye's midrange jumper from the left flank, and Black got one point back when Cassie Murphy made the second of two free throws with 2:08 on the clock.

That, however, would be the last point Team Black would score. With 1:16 remaining, Pink's position was reinforced with a three-point basket from the left wing by Jordan Vitelli. The 44-38 final tally was now up in lights.

Black came back down the floor, but had the ball stripped away in the paint. The erstwhile USciences Devils had possession as the clock dropped under one minute, and they held the ball until time ran out on the Jefferson franchise.

Meinel and Pink's Ye shared the game high of 15 points, while the winners also received 11 points from Vitelli and six from former Episcopal Academy standout Sarah Abbonizio. Team Black's Murphy and Emma Kuczynski posted seven and eight points, respectively.

In the other semifinal, Orange began with three errant outside shots, then got on the board with two made free throws by 2020 Penn Charter graduate Kait Carter. Senior Morgan Orloski, junior Lauren Crim, and freshman Emily Chmiel each found the net from around the foul line, and junior Trinity Brittingham stuck a "three" from the left wing to help the CHC squad carry a 13-6 advantage into the second quarter.

Here, Brittingham canned another trey and later changed things up with a successful drive. Chmiel and Crim continued to score, as well, and a lay-up by senior Cassie Sebold gave the Griffins a double-digit lead (24-14) with five minutes remaining in the first half.

Over the next few minutes Maroon halved that lead to make it 26-21, then in the last phase of the second quarter Orange freshman Brianna Rider sandwiched a baseline jumper and a driving lay-up around two free throws by the USciences club. Orange led 30-23 at the break.

Sebold netted a "three" in the third stanza and points were produced by five other Griffins, including freshman Morgan Sterner. CHC Orange had nudged its lead up to eight points by three-quarter mark, 42-34.

The leaders went without a field goal for more than five minutes as the fourth quarter unfolded, and they were fortunate to have both Brittingham and Orloski go two-for-two at the foul line. During this stretch Maroon only managed to reduce its deficit by one point (46-39).

CHC's Crim then penetrated twice for lay-ups, but the USciences women made a little run with inside and outside scoring to pull within five points at 50-45. That figure was still on the board as the clock dipped under two minutes, and there was still no change as the final minute began with Chestnut Hill spreading out its offense.

Maroon fouled and got the ball back after Orange missed two free throws. USciences' Jessica Huber had made a three-pointer just a little earlier, but now another shot she took from the bonus loop had the ball hit the inside of the rim and then rattle out.

Maroon fouled CHC rookie Sterner with 25 ticks left, and she made the second of two foul shots to put the 51-45 final on the board. The CHC defense denied the outside shooters for USciences, and when Maroon tried to penetrate Carter stole the ball away with six seconds left.

Scoring in double figures for the victors were Brtittingham (12 points) and Chmiel (10), and they were followed by Crim (eight), Orloski (six), Sebold (five), Rider (four), and Carter and Sterner (three points each). Kendall Keyes led Team Maroon with seven points.

Team Orange mustered 10 players for the finals on Thursday evening, although they were still missing senior Bri Hewlett, who had come on strong for CHC in the last few regular-season games. She had scored 11 points (behind Rider's 13) in a 50-47 win over Team Pink in the regular-season finale.

Pink had been missing several key performers for that game, however, and they were back in the line-up for last week's championship bout. The (mostly) USciences alums turned out nine players, once Abbonizio arrived at game time. It was fortunate that the start had been moved back from 6:30 to 7:00 PM, since an accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike had snarled traffic for some time.

Once again, Carter led off the scoring for Team Orange from the foul line, hitting the second of two shots in the opening minute. Ye answered in kind for Pink, and the teams stayed nearly in lockstep until the score was 6-6 seven minutes into the game. Pink edged ahead 8-6 on free throws, and at the end of the quarter Melia Kolb put away a sort of running hook shot to make it 10-6.

By the middle of the second period, Orange had gone ahead 14-10 thanks to a fruitful drive by Carter and back-to-back three-point buckets by Brittingham. Pink produced the next four points to tie the tally, and the score seesawed up to 18-18 late in the first half. In the final dozen seconds, Orange's Crim and Pink's Laura Trisch each canned midrange jumpers, fixing the halftime score at 20-20.

In the initial minute-and-a-half of the third quarter, Rider stuck a baseline shot and Brittingham connected for her third three-pointer of the game. Pink made a counter-run that included treys by Trisch and Ye, and led 29-25 in the middle of the period.

CHC was subbing players in batches of five, and with 4:43 on the clock Orange put in one quintet that was considerably smaller than the other.

Sterner made two lay-ups with assists from junior Lindsey Lane and Sebold to level the score at 29-all for the start of the fourth quarter.

The smaller fivesome, however, could not rebound as well and, unexpectedly, the group was often outhustled for loose balls by the Pinksters.

The larger line-up began the fourth quarter for Orange, but neither of the two CHC units would manage to make another field goal until very late in the game. After almost five minutes, Pink led 35-31 as a traditional "and-one" three-point play from Ye and a three-pointer from Allie (Fedorowicz) Crone bookended two free throws by CHC's Chmiel.

The score inched up to 36-32 as Pink's Kolb had a lone free throw matched by Carter for the Orange. The clock fell below four minutes remaining, then three.

A loose-ball rebound for Pink led to a lay-up by Jordan Vitelli, who had been prevented from wreaking her customary three-point havoc by the CHC defense but still found ways to contribute. Now in the foul bonus, Pink added two points on two separate trips to the stripe by Abbonizio. Early in the last minute of play, Vitelli also went one-for-two at the foul line, spreading the score to 41-32.

Orange missed a three-point shot at the other end and Pink corralled the rebound with 36 seconds left. A little later, Orange got the ball back when Pink missed a pair of free throws. CHC's Crim lined up on the three-point loop on the left side and a defender made a run at her. The junior sidestepped and got off a successful shot, but one foot was now on the three-point line so only two points were added for the Griffins.

With 26 seconds left, Orange still trailed by seven at 41-34, and the score was unaltered when Pink couldn't find the net on another two free throws with 15 seconds left. The would be no miracle in the closing moments for the CHC women, who missed a final lay-up attempt.

Crim had a team-high 10 points and Brittingham finished with nine for the Orange. Carter and Sterner each scored four points, Orloski had three, and Chmiel and Rider each recorded two points. Pink was paced by Ye with a game-high 11 points, and Abbonizio and Trisch each scored s

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