By Mark Kitchin
RANDOLPH — Big teams, small teams, it really doesn’t seem to matter for Chatham boys basketball. The Cougars seem to have the versatility to take on teams of all sizes.
On Saturday, Chatham had to face a small, quick team in Morristown. The Cougars did all the right things to advance to the Morris County Tournament final.
Colin McKenna scored 16 points and Graham Delaney added 12 to lift Chatham to 50-32 win over Morristown in the opening game of the MCT semifinal round played at County College of Morris on Saturday.
Tristan LeMon added nine points for the Cougars (17-5). Chatham will play Mendham in this Saturday’s title game which is scheduled for 7 p.m. also at CCM. Mendham defeated Hanover Park 56-47 in the second game of the doubleheader.
Colin McKenna drives to the basket during Saturday’s MCT semifinal. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)
Sophomore forward Kevin Hoehn scored eight points and senior guard Jack Mongey had seven for the seventh seeded Colonials (11-9). Morristown was last year’s MCT finalist.
Chatham took advantage of its superior size and never trailed. The third-seeded Cougars led 13-5 at the end of the first quarter and 22-9 at the half.
“It feels so great,” McKenna said. “It is the best feeling in the world. I’ve never played on a stage this big and I’m just so happy to be here. … We had three days of straight practice. All we did was run Morristown’s scouting report. Everything they did, every step they took, we were ready for it.”
Chatham had beaten Morristown 68-56 on January 16. In that game the Colonials had their usual strong performance from 3-point range. On Saturday, the Colonials were held to only three 3-pointers behind the arc, and all of them came in the second half when the Cougars enjoyed a sizable lead.
“It was partly luck,” Delaney said. “It’s part of their game. They shoot a lot of threes, usually they hit a lot of threes. A little bit of luck and on our part we played great defense and limited their chances inside. They had to shoot a lot of perimeter shots and luckily it wasn’t their day.”
When size is needed Chatham sophomore John Burkard is often called. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)
Another part of Morristown’s game is its ability to score in transition. Chatham made sure that their opponents were not going to race up and down the court for easy baskets against them.
“It (rebounding) was big,” McKenna said. “They are good when its fast paced and they run. I fell like we slowed the game down. We played to our tempo. We had the half court edge and we took advantage of that.”
Morristown, last year’s tournament finalists, couldn’t get anything started on offense. Chatham built a 32-11 advantage with 3:37 left in the third quarter. Then Morristown mounted a 7-2 run and made it a 34-18 game going into the final period.
Chatham maintained its advantage throughout the fourth quarter. A Rohan Walker 3-pointer helped the Colonials to within 14 points at 41-27 with 2:55 left. Then the Cougars called a timeout and decided to use the clock. Morristown was forced to foul and Stefan Goles, LeMon and Niko Goles combined to go 6 for 6 from the line in the last two minutes to secure the win. Now Chatham will focus on Mendham. The Cougars can’t wait.
“It was really fun,” Delaney said. “I love playing in big games like this with the crowd. It’s just going to get even bigger next week. We are ready.”