January 11, 2014 at 11:00 PM
CHATHAM, NJ - Joe Gaba predicts that Natalie Washuta is going to break the record for minutes played in a season for the Chatham girls basketball team.
The Chatham coach will have plenty to say about it since he doesn't plan on taking her out of a game anytime soon.
"Natalie is going to play all 32 minutes," Gaba said. "She is going to break the single-season minutes played mark. I never had player play 32 minutes a game and she's going to play all 32."
Washuta was at it again on Saturday, scoring a game-high 21 points in Chatham's 54-35 girls basketball victory over previously unbeaten West Essex in the Cougar Night doubleheader played at Chatham High School.
The senior point guard didn't slow down in the second half despite playing every minute. In the third quarter, Washuta drove the baseline to score a layup and then hit two 3-pointers, the second from 25-feet out as the buzzer sounded. Chatham (6-2) had in-bounded the ball with 3.9 seconds left in the period and Washuta dribbled up court before swishing the long three to give Chatham a 40-35 lead heading into the fourth.
"I need her on the floor." Gaba said. "She's our floor leader, she's our only returning starter. She is just a competitor. She wants to win the game. Her scoring has stepped up this year, she's a wonderful defender and being the smallest kid on the floor, she gets rebounds. She's a hustle player, she's a competitor and that's what we get out of her night in and night out."
Washuta helped seal the victory when she was fouled while attempting a 3-point shot. She made all three free throws to make it 50-33 with 2:49 left.
Washuta's effort was complemented by sophomore guard Cassandra Falone, who finished with 16 points. Falone scored all 10 of Chatham's points in the second quarter, knocking down two 3-pointers and driving for two other baskets.
"Cass had a great night tonight and hopefully it's a precursor to what's to come," Gaba said. "She was comfortable tonight , she got herself goiing and we need her to continue it."
Stephanie Pezzuti finished with eight points to lead West Essex (5-1)