Top seed falls, CHC grads move into summer league finals

by Tom Utescher
Posted 8/2/23

The undergrads from Chestnut Hill College bowed out in the quarterfinals but the Team Pink alumni team made it through to the finals.

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Top seed falls, CHC grads move into summer league finals


The undergrads from Chestnut Hill College bowed out in the quarterfinals and those from top-seeded Jefferson University did not survive the semifinals. Still, the Team Pink alumni team which includes three CHC grads made it through to the finals of the college summer league last week.

Pink, with former Griffins Cassie Sebold, Lauren Crim and Abbey Spratt, knocked out both teams, first overcoming the current Chestnut Hill players on Team Red in a 63-52 quarterfinal contest on Tuesday, and then taking down previously undefeated Team Black (Jefferson), 71-60, in the semifinal round on Thursday.

Pink moved on to this Tuesday's championship game against Holy Family University's Team Sky Blue. Seeded second, Sky easily won its quarterfinal contest last Tuesday and then beat Team Purple (West Chester University), 68-61, on Thursday evening.

In Tuesday's quarterfinal round, teams that were not staffed largely by NCAA Division II players were eliminated. Team Sun, which lost a squeaker to Team Black, has both Division II and DIII players on the roster. Kelly Green, which features a lot of athletes from Division III Centennial Conference teams, gave Team Purple a battle but ultimately lost, 59-53.

Sky Blue cruised, 79-42, over a Royal Blue squad that includes eight players from Cabrini University. Cabrini is due to close at the end of the 2023-24 academic year, but it may have trouble fielding a basketball team this winter. The head coach has already been hired elsewhere, and players have been considering other options, as well. 

The most dramatic game on Tuesday Saw undefeated number one seed Team Black struggling to get past eighth-seeded Sun, which had not won a game in the league prior to recording a victory in the July 20 play-in game for the league's eighth playoff spot.

Although Jefferson Black was missing rising junior Sam Yencha, a strong rebounder, they had 11 players on hand while Sun would have to proceed with just one sub. Fortunately for the eighth seed, last week's heat wave had not yet arrived.

Sun led this one most of the way, taking an 18-13 lead out of the first quarter as three different played connected from the three-point line. Abby Marino, a 2023 graduate of Germantown Academy, added a pair of threes in the second quarter and her squad was still up by five points at halftime, 35-30.

The first time Team Black pulled even was at 44-all late in the third quarter, but a late free throw gave Sun a one-point edge heading into the final frame.

The teams were tied at 58-all with under a minute remaining in the game. With 49.7 seconds on the clock, junior Emma Kuczynski made the second of two free throws to nudge Team Black ahead. Sun was unable to score on its next possession and then had to foul twice in a row to put Jefferson on the foul line and keep them from just running out the clock.

Kuczynski went back to the line and again made the second of two tosses to make it 60-58 with 21.9 seconds remaining. She then committed a foul herself to disrupt Team Sun's next possession. The clock showed 13.6 seconds to go when Sun inbounded the ball, but when they missed a shot from the right baseline, Team Black rebounded the ball and time ran out.

Senior Emily Keehfuss (a former Catholic Academies player from Nazareth) deposited a dozen points for the winners, while her classmate Haley Meinel added 10. Sun was led by three players who scored 12 points apiece; Marino, Allie Sillo (an Episcopal Academy grad who will play with Marino at the Illinois Institute of Technology), and Casey Remolde (St. Basil's Academy/Kutztown University).

You would expect a close game between the fourth and fifth seeds, and although number five Team Pink led almost the whole way, fourth-ranked Team Red stayed within striking distance much of the time. Red, Chestnut Hill College's summer franchise, started out well in the league, but would later struggle against the other three teams that were each made up of athletes from the same NCAA Division II school.

With seven players scoring in the first quarter, Team Pink ended the period with a 21-15 advantage. Pink was up nine points at the half (39-30), and then they rang up the first four points of the third quarter for a 13-point lead. Red then went on a 9-2 run, but in the end round three was an 11-11 standoff, resulting in a tally of 50-41 to start the fourth quarter.

The current CHC athletes crept closer and with three minutes left in the game, a three-point bucket by junior Siobhan Boylan narrowed the gap to five points (55-50). Red would only produce two more points in the game, though, and they kept putting their own former teammate, point guard Cassie Sebold, on the foul line. She would go six-for-six at the stripe down the stretch, helping the Pinksters secure a 63-52 victory.

Sebold finished with 10 points for the winners, who received a game-high 16 points from Taylor Hamm and 11 from Drexel alum Kate Connolly, who is the sister of former Chestnut Hill coach Jim Connolly. In double figures for Team Red were sophomore Avery White (13 points), and Penn Charter alum and rising CHC senior Kait Carter (12).

In the first of Thursday's semifinal games, Team Black again once had more players on hand than its opponent, as the older Team Pink turned out just seven players. This contest would feature a "Sprattle" between Chestnut Hill grad Abbey Spratt on Team Pink, and her sister Emily, a redshirt freshman for Jefferson's Team Black.

The teams were tied near the end of the first quarter when the elder Spratt made a successful drive to beat the buzzer, putting her team up, 15-13. Yencha, back in action for Black, scored six points in the second quarter to help her squad to a halftime lead.

Scoring mostly on short jump shots while Pink missed a number of free throws, the Jefferson group was up 27-21 with under four minutes left in the first half. Pink scraped one point off that lead, then from beyond the top of the key, Sebold launched a buzzer-beater to get her ball club back within two points at halftime, 29-27.

In the third round the Pinksters got within one point of the leaders at 31-30, then Black widened the lead again as Keehfuss and Meinel each knocked down a three-pointer. Going into the final minute, Black was on the verge of securing a double-digit lead with the tally at 44-35, but Pink's Connolly hit a lay-up and made a free throw awarded on the play, setting the score at 44-38 for the start of round four.

Black would never display the sense of urgency needed to really put Team Pink away. Connolly deposited a three-pointer and a shorter baseline jumper early on, and later Crim canned a trey from near the keytop to knot the score at 48-all with 6:30 remaining in the game.

A trey from Jen Kremp and another from Crim created a 54-48 lead for Pink, which had now scored 11 straight points after trailing 48-43. The score seesawed to 58-52, and with Pink still leading by six points as the clock dipped under two minutes, Black had to start to foul to slow things down.

As Chestnut Hill College teams had done in years past, Pink simply put the ball in the hands of their trusty point guard, Sebold. Sebold, who will become a Spratt next month when she marries Abbey and Emily's brother, made 13 of 14 free throws over the final one minute and 50 seconds to lock in the final score at 71-60.

She finished with a game-high 22 points while Connolly had 12 and Crim had nine. Robinson finished with 13 points for Black, and Meinel with 12.

In the other semifinal, Sky Blue led the whole way. Team Purple reduced a deficit well up in double figures down to six points during the fourth quarter, but Sky won by seven, 68-61.