By Mark Kitchin
It’s unsure what exactly happened to put Chatham on its current run of winning seven of its last games, but the Cougars are playing their best basketball coming into Saturday’s Morris County Tournament final.
The third seeded and defending champion Cougars play top-seeded Morristown-Beard in a 7 p.m. start at County College of Morris. Chatham advanced to finals with a 70-39 triumph over Randolph in last Saturday’s semifinals.
“We know we are good,” said guard Jack Rooney. “We went through a rough stretch and we lost four of five. We lost to Mo-Beard. We lost to Randolph. We lost a couple of tough games but we are playing well at the right time.”
Graham LeMon is one of Chatham’s most consistent players. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)
A lot of it may just be a question of confidence. A 48-47 buzzer beater win against Morristown on January 31 may have been one game that finally showed the players that they were successful when it came to tight games.
“We are playing well,” Chatham coach Todd Ervin said. “We are playing confident. We weren’t playing as confident earlier in the year. We believe in everyone and everyone contributes. We’ve beaten some good teams lately which is only going to give us more confidence.”
They have also shown they can overcome adversity. Against Randolph one of their top rebounders and scorers in the paint Greg LeMon turned an ankle in the opening seconds and missed most of the first quarter. Instead of floundering, the Cougars opened up with a 9-0 run to set the tempo for the contest.
John Burkard is one of many players who may be peaking at just the right time for the Cougars. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)
“Kyle (Kology) came in right off the bench. We knew he was going to step up,” guard Mac Bredahl said. “It was good to see that Graham was going to be able to come back and be healthy but that was a little frightening. Graham is one of our best players. To lose him would be tough, but Kyle stepped up.”
It was unsure whether Bredahl was going to play either. He missed most of the week of practices and games suffering from back spasms. Once he was cleared to play he made the most of it. He led Chatham in scoring with 18 points.
“My lower left back tenses up and spasms,” Bredahl said. “It hurt throughout the game. I was having fun. My teammates were giving me confidence playing the way I like to play and it worked out.”
Chatham has the size and ability to play with Morristown-Beard, In regular season play, the Crimson were the victor with a 69-62 win on January 13. The championship game in the county tournament is a different setting and the Cougars are comfortable in it. Chatham has been in important tournament games in the past. Their players will not shy away from the big moment.
“I definitely think Jack and Mac especially,” Ervin said. “They all played a lot last year. Getting used to it, I definitely think it helps.”