January 12, 2014 at 1:10 AM
CHATHAM, NJ - Colin McKenna is just a 15-year-old sophomore, but the forward's offensive game looked like it had experienced a growth spurt on Saturday against West Essex.
McKenna had the best offensive showing of his young career with a game-high 18 points and senior guard Luke Conrad hit for 16 points as Chatham defeated West Essex, 58-41 in the second game of the Cougar Night doubleheader at CHS.
"Colin played unbelievable, he finished around the basket and rebounded," Conrad said. "I think going forward he's going to make an even bigger impact for us. I think this is a confidence booster for him and we really expect a lot out of him going forward. He's a really talented player and has a knack for scoring, and really just a good teammate."
West Essex (4-3) plays a 2-3 zone defense and the Cougars needed an inside presence to beat it. McKenna was the answer, dropping in 15 of his points in the second half.
"I think because of the zone, it just lent itself that he got the ball down there and awful lot - and he finished," Chatham coach Todd Ervin said. "He's our best inside player and we try to get the ball inside to him so we can score. He got a lot of good looks. He missed a few or he could have had something like 26 points."
McKenna scored nine points in the fourth quarter, including a strong drive to the rim that dropped as he was fouled. McKenna sank the bonus free throw, staking the Cougars to a 55-33 lead with 3:25 to go.
"The guys did a really good job delivering me the ball," McKenna said. "It was a good momentum play (three-point play) to keep the confidence up."
Conrad drove the lane for a layup that ended the scoring in the third period and then drained a 3-pointer off a pass from Bobby Raiola to start the scoring in the fourth quarter. Conrad, Graham Delaney and McKenna each sank two free throws to complete a 9-0 run that handed the Cougars a 46-31 lead.
"Logan Loeloff did a great job, he set a nice screen for me there and I saw a nice lane there and I took advantage of it," Conrad said. "Robert (Raiola) made a great pass to me and I was fortunate to hit it. I think we really took off after that. A really great team effort today."
Matt Thies had 13 points to pace West Essex.