CHATHAM, NJ - Graham Delaney came out shooting with the hot hand and his Chatham teammates followed suit in the biggest offensive showing of the season for the Cougars to date.
The result was a 74-66 victory over Cranford in the first round of the state tournament on Tuesday night.
Chatham (14-10) hopes to pick up where it left off, 7 p.m. Wednesday when it plays host to Orange in the second round. Orange (17-8) defeated West Morris, 61-44, in its first-round game played Tuesday.
The baskets began to drop early for Chatham against Cranford (11-13) as the Cougars drained five 3-pointers in the first quarter to grab a 27-18 lead. Stefan Goles hit the first two 3-pointers for Chatham, followed by one from Greg Mah and two by Delaney in the opening quarter.
"I felt like they weren't playing me as tough as most of the teams in our county have, so I was able to get off a lot of shots and I made a lot," Delaney said. "It was all a credit to Rob (Raiola) and Luke (Conrad), they really pushed the ball and made it a fast-paced game. It was the most points we scored in a game this season."
Chatham hit eight of its nine 3-pointers in the first half, four of them by Delaney, when the Cougars built a 43-31 lead before the break. Chatham had five players score in double figures, led by Delaney with 18. Robert Raiola had 13 points, Colin McKenna hit for 12, Luke Conrad 11 and Mah 10.
"We came out and shot the ball really well," Raiola said. "Graham was lights out, shooting really well, Stef (Goles) shot the ball really well. Greg (Mah) shot the ball really well. When we do that, we're very hard to defend. The only problem was that our defense wasn't as good as it usually is. We'll take it one at a time and see how far we can go."
Cranford scored the first five points of the second half before Chatham answered with a 13-0 run to take control. Conrad followed a missed Raiola shot for a putback to start it. Delaney then drove for a one-handed layup and Mah nailed a 3-pointer from the right corner.
Senior Logan Loeloff then contributed a bank shot before drawing a charge at the other end. Soon after, Delaney converted a fast-break layup off a feed from Mah. Raiola then scored inside off a sharp pass from Delaney, making it 56-36 for the Cougars with 1:25 left in the third.
"I thought we played well offensively, we made some good decisions, shot the ball well," Chatham coach Todd Ervin said. "We just didn't play very well defensively and we turned the ball over far too many times. Overall, I'm not going to complain. We certainly won a state game, but we didn't close it out as well as we could have."