CHC rams Jefferson, then escapes Cougars' claws

by Tom Utescher
Posted 2/1/23

After upsetting nationally ranked Jefferson University last Wednesday, the Chestnut Hill College women survived an uncomfortably close fourth quarter against Caldwell (N.J.) University.

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CHC rams Jefferson, then escapes Cougars' claws


After upsetting nationally ranked Jefferson University last Wednesday, 57-44, the Chestnut Hill College women survived an uncomfortably close fourth quarter against an ostensibly less-formidable opponent, Caldwell (N.J.) University.

On Saturday afternoon the visiting Caldwell Cougars (who trailed 32-24 at the half) were never able to take the lead in their fourth quarter rally, but they did tie the contest at 51-all in the middle of the period. The CHC Griffins scored the next six points and went on to win, 61-55, lifting their record to 8-3 within the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference and 13-7 overall.

Jefferson had arrived at Chestnut Hill on Wednesday with a top-20 ranking in several national Division II polls (it was ninth in one survey), The Lady Rams were undefeated in CACC competition (9-0) and 17-2 overall.

After an emotionally charged win like CHC engineered against Jefferson, it's not unusual for a team to experience a letdown, and the Griffins knew they had to guard against that.

Point guard Abbey Spratt, a graduate student and fourth-year player (thanks to the NCAA's COVID-19 extension) said, "It's tough to come off such a big win, a big high, but we wanted to try and take that momentum into the next game."

For the Caldwell contest, she noted, "We were really prepared, we scouted them and watched a lot of film."

Caldwell, of course, was motivated to beat the team "that just beat Jefferson." The Cougars would leave Chestnut Hill with a mark of 6-6 in the conference and 10-10 against all opponents. The Griffins, who dealt with injury and other personnel challenges early in the season, had now won eight of their last nine games.

In the midweek showdown with Jefferson, CHC gained a three-point edge in the first quarter (12-9) and still held it at halftime, when the tally was 23-20.

Kait Carter, a junior guard out of Penn Charter who scored a team-high 10 points, scored two early baskets while assisting on three buckets by 6'2" sophomore Emily Sekerak, who recently earned a starting spot for the Griffins.

Chestnut Hill is a balanced ball club; it's evident on the court and backed up on the scoresheet. Right after Carter in the scoring stats came three sophomores with nine points apiece, post player Emily Chmiel, guard/forward Bri Rider, and guard Morgan Sterner. Sekerak finished with eight.

The Lady Rams edged the Griffins in total rebounds, 47-44, with junior guard Morgan Robinson and sophomore guard/forward Sam Yencha grabbing 11 apiece. The Griffins had eight different players with at least three rebounds apiece.

Spratt, who now is earning a master's degree in the field of special education, has seen the depth of talent in the CHC program increase considerably during her tenure.

"We have a really deep bench now, everybody's good, everybody contributes," she said. "We're trying to build from game to game. We have freshmen who are stepping up. We compete hard with each other in practice, and I think we have great team chemistry."

Against Caldwell last Saturday, two 16-12 quarters had Chestnut Hill up 32-24 at the half. Four three-point field goals had kept Caldwell from falling too far behind, and CHC received a pair of threes from senior guard Lauren Crim, who recently passed the 1000-point milestone for scoring in her CHC career.

The Cougars chipped away at the Griffins' lead in the third period, and with under four minutes remaining they narrowed the gap to just two points, at 38-36. It was a four-point game at the three-quarter mark (45-41), and after getting within one point early in the fourth frame, Caldwell fell back to a three-point deficit. Then, however, the scoreboard was leveled at 51-all with a three-pointer from the Cougars' Lucy Coogan, a six-foot redhead from Kilkenny, Ireland.

Chestnut Hill's post players responded. Chmiel got fouled and made two free throws, then senior Leah Miller bagged back-to-back layups, the second assisted by PC grad Carter. Caldwell answered with a layup, and the next time down the floor the Griffins missed three shots in a row.

With the score still 57-53, Caldwell took a hit when point guard Halle Brown (a Westtown School grad) fouled out with 1:40 left to play.

After the Cougars missed a layup CHC's Rider rebounded the ball, and when she was fouled she made one of two shots from the stripe with 68 seconds remaining. Rider snagged another rebound when Caldwell missed a three-point attempt, but CHC turned over the ball and with half a minute to go, a drive by Caldwell's Saundra Cleckley tightened the score to 58-55.

Spratt was fouled and made one of two free throws, and it was still 59-55 with 10 seconds left in the game. The Cougars missed from the outside and CHC sophomore Siobhan Boylan collected the rebound, then the Griffins called time-out with nine seconds remaining.

They inbounded the ball to Crim, who was fouled and made both shots from the stripe to tack the 61-55 final on the scoreboard. Caldwell's last gasp was a three-point shot that did not even hit the rim.

Cougars shooting guard Casey O'Shaughnessy led the visitors with 15 points. Miller had the team high of 10 points for CHC, with eight points apiece coming from Chmiel, Crim, and Rider. Chmiel led the team in rebounds, with five, and nine other players each grabbed three or more.

Chestnut Hill had an unremarkable 37.5 shooting percentage from the floor, but for the 16th time in their 20 games so far this season, they held the opposing team under 60 points. Last Wednesday they'd limited Jefferson's Lady Rams to their lowest scoring output all season.

"When our shots aren't falling," Spratt said, "we always have our defense to fall back on. We usually get big stops when we need them."