Irvington topples Chatham in sectional semifinal

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

CHATHAM – As teams advance deeper into the state tournament they meet opponents that are a little bit faster, a little bit stronger, a little bit tougher and a little bit luckier than they are. When an opponent can string two or three of those element together it often means the end of a tournament run. The Chatham Cougars met their match on Saturday.

Al-Jahaad Bradford scored 20 points to lift Irvington past Chatham 57-43 in North 2, Group III state tournament play on Saturday.

Senior forward Joe Timmes scored 10 points and Luke Conrad and Sam Carson had eight points apiece for the Cougars (22-6). Irvington (14-11) moves on to play Newark East Side, a 59-30 winner over Morristown, in next week’s sectional final.

Chatham, the section’s top seed, ended its run after home victories against Governor Livingston and Plainfield. Looking back on its season, the Cougars including seven seniors, will have a lot of good times to remember.

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Joe Timmes scored 10 points in his final home game for the Cougars. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

“Our senior class definitely left a good legacy,’’ Timmes said. “I think we are the only (Chatham) class ever to have back-to-back conference titles. We are one of the only teams ever to win a county title which is great. I don’t know what the stats are but we finished the last two years with 20-wins plus.’’

The senior class which included Timmes, Drew Ballard, Sam Carson, Garrett McAuliffe, Daniel McGinley, Scott Baker and Brian Oliver also reached the championship game of the Morris County Tournament for the second consecutive year.

“They are right up there with all of our good teams,’’ Chatham coach Todd Ervin said. “It’s a really good group of seniors and we are going to miss them — absolutely.’’

Even though the Cougars trailed throughout the state tournament contest, Ervin was satisfied with the team’s overall effort.

“If they give me 100 percent effort, you can’t complain,’’ Ervin said. “We played hard and that’s what I care about.’’

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Chatham’s Sam Carson looks for an opening against an Irvington defender during second half action. (Photo by Mark Kitchin).

Irvington, which defeated Roxbury 57-31, in the opening round of the tournament, is a good solid team. They aren’t the biggest or the quickest that Chatham has seen. However, they did a good job of rebounding the ball on both ends of the floor and their guards took care of the ball while running its offense. Both those qualities were Chatham’s downfall on Saturday.

“We just couldn’t keep them off the glass,’’ Ervin said. “They killed us on the glass. That was the difference. We also turned the ball over a little too much. It was definitely turnovers in the first half.

“In the second half, we didn’t turn it over nearly as much. We couldn’t keep them off the boards. They had a lot of second and third shots.’’

Irvington held a 13-11 edge at the end of the first quarter. A timely three-pointer just before the half gave the Blue Knights a 25-19 advantage at the break.

“They were able to get to the lane a lot,’’ Timmes said. “They had a lot of quick guards. We were able to keep it neck and neck with them for the first 15 minutes. They just started making some shots.’’

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Chatham students packed the gym to cheer the Cougars on against their inner city opponents. (Photo by Mark Kitchin

The Cougars still seemed in the game for much of the third quarter but they couldn’t develop any momentum to cut into their deficit. Bradford, who was the smallest player on the floor, came up big by knocking down a 3-point shot from the left corner to give Irvington a 42-31 lead going into the final period.

Despite a packed gym and a vocal Chatham crowd cheering them on, the Cougars didn’t have another rally in them. Shots that they needed to go in, bounced off the rim, while the Blue Knights found ways to convert their opportunities.

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Chatham seniors from left to right, Joe Timmes, Daniel McGinley, Garrett McAuliffe, Drew Ballard, and Brian Oliver.  (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Timmes fouled out late in the fourth quarter and with about a minute left, Ervin pulled the remaining seniors from the floor. The Chatham fans gave their heroes a standing ovation for their efforts during another successful season and in honor of how proudly they represented their school.

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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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