Chatham ends 2012 in grand fashion

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

CHATHAM – If how Chatham basketball finished 2012 is any indication of how 2013 is going to turn out, the Cougars are working toward something special.

Junior forward Scott Baker scored 15 points and senior forward Joe Timmes added 14 points to spark Chatham to a 68-48 victory over Hanover Park in the final contest of the Cougar Classic on Monday.

Chatham built a 33-17 advantage at halftime and maintained leads of 20 points or more for most of the second half. The Cougars improved to 4-2 on the season.

Matt Geisser scored 15 points for Hanover Park which dropped to 4-2.

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Hanover Park’s Nick Marucci (31) and Matt Geisser (13) work at boxing out Chatham’s Joe Timmes on a rebound attempt. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Of course, 2012 wasn’t too shabby for the defending Morris County Tournament champions. The Cougars overcame injuries and had outstanding performances by Jonathan Berntsen who scored the game winning basket against Mount Olive in the title game.

The lessons they learned last season seemed to be helping Chatham this year. The Cougars made adjustments to play the up-tempo Marauders that seem to be serving them now.

“We must have learned something from it,’’ Timmes said. “Now were using our depth and experience. We have a lot of guys who can play. Our guards are pretty quick. We are just using that to our benefit.’’

Chatham coach Todd Ervin is a stickler for detail and isn’t necessarily known for innovations or emphasizing the fast-paced style. However, he is not inflexible and he feels it’s the best way to utilize his varsity personnel.

“We have 10 or 11 or 12 kids that can play,’’ Chatham coach Todd Ervin said. “In order to get them in the game, we have to increase the tempo. It made it easier for me. When you have more kids, you can play a lot of them. If you have only six or seven, you can’t play (that way) because they get exhausted.’’

Injuries that took several Cougars off the court last season pressed Luke Conrad, Rob Raiola and others into service on the varsity and gave them more experience than they would have if they were watching from the bench or playing jayvee. Now with so many capable players available Chatham can substitute sometimes as many as four or five guys at a time with little let up and allow it to implement more pressure defenses longer.

“We like it,’’ Timmes said. “When it works it gives us some easy buckets and put some points on the board,’’

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Chatham’s Drew Ballard drives to the hoop during first half action on Monday. (Photo by Mark Kitchin).

The tremendous leadership that Berntsen, who now competes for Wheaton College in Illinois, displayed last year was certainly noticed by his teammates. Now there are plenty of guys to fill the void left by his graduation.

“We have seven seniors and it’s such a good group,’’ Ervin said. “I wasn’t worried about that. Actually all of them have stepped up so it hasn’t been a big deal.’’

The Cougars went to work early in the contest that was postponed last week because of inclement weather and rescheduled for Monday afternoon. They played their tough man to man defense and often used full-court and half-court pressures to create turnovers and disrupt the Hornets ability to run an offense. Even when Hanover Park had good opportunities, they rushed their shots and Chatham took advantage by pushing the ball for transition baskets of its own.

“We knew they could shoot the ball well from the three,’’ Ervin said. “We just didn’t want to give them any easy looks, layups or anything else. We just wanted to make them work for everything.’’

One tough matchup Hanover Park had to deal with was with Timmes. He has size (6-foot-4) and muscle in the blocks but enough range to knock down threes with regularity.

“He’s put a lot of work in,’’ Ervin said. “He’s worked on his game. He gets better every day.’’

Baker, Chatham’s steady 6-foot-2 forward, got the Cougars off to a good start by scoring nine of the team’s first 16 points and helped them build a 16-10 first-quarter lead. The Cougars continued that pace and although the Hornets tried to match it, turnovers and poor shooting kept them from catching up.

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Chatham’s Dan Winschuh (23) blocks the path of Hanover Park’s Max Reynolds during the Cougar Classic contest. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Chatham led 33-17 at the half and continued with a strong third-quarter performance. A Conrad 3-pointer with about a minute left in the period gave the Cougars its largest lead of the game at 56-22.

Hanover Park rallied late to make the score respectable, but it never threatened the lead. The win helped the Cougars gain some momentum going into the New Year after dealing with the obstacle of back-to-back losses to Linden and a resurgent Morristown squad. Their other Chatham Classic victories were wins against Millburn (76-42) and New Providence (79-63).

“It gave us a reality check and got us more focused on the games ahead of us,’’ Timmes said of the losses. “It was nice to get back on track with these three wins in the holiday tournament. It’s a good way to finish the year.’’

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About mcvbb

Mark Kitchin is a boys varsity basketball writer for the Morris County New Jersey area

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