PHILADELPHIA - - The game seemed to in hand in the second half for the Wilmington University men's basketball team, but the Wildcats let a 18 point second half lead slip away as Chestnut Hill came back, 69-67, to steal a pivotal Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference contest on Thursday night at the Sorgenti Arena.
Leading 54-40 with 11:23 to play in the second half Wilmington (9-13, 5-8 CACC) saw its lead disappear and eventually became a deficit with 1:15 left on the clock. Chestnut Hill (17-8, 10-3 CACC) went on a 28-13 run to take its first lead since the 11:28 mark of the first half.
The Wildcats got out to the large lead starting with 16-4 run closing the first half. The 'Cats were able to turn a 23-19 point lead into a 39-23 advantage over the final 4:14 of the opening frame. Herbert Dennis converted an old fashioned three-point play to kick start the rally to make it 28-19 before Dennis, James Pee and Ed Freeman made threes on their final three possessions of the first half to extend it to a 16 point game.
Corye Payton opened the second half with a layup to give the Wildcats their biggest lead of the game at 41-23. But the Griffins hung around in the opening 10 minutes of the second half and cut the lead down to 14 before they made their final move.
Chestnut Hill used a 9-2 run to make it a five-point game with 5:52 showing on the clock. Still a five point game, the Griffins' Francis Ashe scored a layup before two free throws by Mark DiRugeris Jr. cut the Wildcats lead to one at 62-61 with 3:50 left in regulation.
Three free throws and a layup by Payton pushed the lead back out to six for the visitors, but Brandon Williams nailed a three-pointer to bring the Griffins back to life with 2:05 to play. Luke Dickson went to the line on the Griffins next trip down the floor, sinking both to cut it to a one-point game once again.
Dickson then got the job done on the defensive end of the court with a steal, and was fouled once again to go to the line. Dickson pushed the pressure aside and sank both foul shots once again, giving the home team the lead with 1:15 left in the game.
Herbert had a chance to put the teams on the seesaw but missed a layup nearly 20 seconds later. The Griffins' Dickson nearly gave the game away on a turnover with 16 seconds on the board, but Pee was unable to convert on the offensive end, turning it back over to the home team.
DiRugeris hit one of two free-throws with two seconds left to play, and the Wildcats never were able to get a shot off for the win.
Freeman led the Wildcats with 18 points on 4-for-10 shooting, including 3-for-5 from beyond the arc and 7-for-8 from the foul line. Payton finished with 11 points while Pee also collected double digit points with 10. Brett Foskey had a team high seven rebounds while Pee and Freeman added six boards each.
Chestnut Hill's Dan Comas led all scorers with 21 points on 7-for-12 shooting while adding 7-for-8 from the foul line. He finished with a double-double by grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds. Ashe was the only other Griffin in double-digits, as he put in 14 points.
The Wildcats will look to get back in the win column on Saturday, as they travel to Nyack for their third game this week. The game is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.