CHATHAM, NJ — Chatham girls basketball coach Joe Gaba started to choke up after the game when he mentioned senior guard Tess Ford, who had been a key player on the Cougar varsity for four seasons.
"I think the losing has been hard on her because all we've done is won in her first three years," Gaba said. "Her role was to carry us a little bit, but also it was passing the torch. We've always had players who passed the torch to the next generation of players. It's important that these kids understand what it means to play for our program."
Ford led by example as she scored a team-leading 13 points and handed out five assists in the final game of her career as Chatham closed its shortened season with a 48-26 win over Morris Knolls on Saturday.
Ford got some help on the offensive end from first-time varsity performers, freshman Maddy Frohnapfel and junior Grace Tortorella, who each hit a 3-pointer on their first shots, and a defense anchored by junior Carly Frohnapfel as the Cougars held Morris Knolls (6-9) to 13 points in each half.
Ford talks about the young team and her final game
Morris Knolls held a 13-12 edge midway through the second quarter before the Cougars closed out the half on an 8-0 run. Anna Jesse got it started with a putback of an offensive rebound and Ford followed with the first of three 3-pointers in the game.
Gaba then sent in Maddy Frohnapfel for her first varsity action and she received a pass from her older sister, Carly, before dropping in her first varsity shot - a 3-pointer from the right corner (see below) to make it 20-13.
Chatham opened the second half with a 9-3 burst sparked by senior Lea Casano-Boris, who opened with a 3-pointer (see below), Ford dropped in a 3-pointer and Casano-Boris struck again from behind the arc to make it a 29-16 Cougar advantage.
The Cougars pushed their lead to 16 points when they closed out the third period with seven straight points. Carly Frohnapfel banked in a shot off an in-bound pass from Casano-Boris before Tortorella made her debut - first grabbing a loose ball on the defensive end and then draining her first varsity shot from 3-point range (see below).
Ford ended the third quarter with the last points of her Chatham career, driving to the basket for a left-handed floater that beat the buzzer (see below) and handed the Cougars a 36-20 cushion.
"We were going into our last game and we knew they were going to play zone and Maddy and Grace are our two pretty good 3-point shooters," said Gaba of his decision to elevate Frohnapfel and Tortorella to the varsity. "It's kind of comical, you put one kid in she hits her first shot of her career and you put the next kid in and she hits the first shot of her career. Either I'm a genius or I'm dumb for not playing them earlier."
COUGAR NOTES: The reaction to Alyssa Paone's basket with 1:11 left in the game showed how important that play was to the Chatham team. The senior guard scored the first points of her career when she cut to the basket and scored off a pass from Carly Frohnapfel as she was fouled (see below).
Paone also made the free throw to complete her three-point play... Carly Frohnapfel ended with eight points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots ... Cougar senior Lea Casano-Boris hit two 3-pointers for Chatham ... The Cougars won three of the last four games to end 5-10.