COLONIA, NJ - Fittingly, senior Graham DeLaney made the final shot of his standout Chatham career, an extra long 3-pointer that kept the last-ditch comeback attempt alive with six seconds left.
The guard managed to get his hands on the ball one last time before the clock ticked down to zero on the game and his Cougar tenure.
If there is one thing that can be said about DeLaney and the Chatham boys basketball team, they consistently played their hearts out to the end every time they took the court.
Colonia was the latest opponent to experience Chatham's resolve when they pulled out a 45-43 victory in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 state tournament final on Tuesday night.
"I couldn't be any prouder of the entire team," Chatham coach Todd Ervin said. "I think Colonia realized they had a game on their hands. They're a tough team to beat at home. I'm really proud of the guys. This is a great group of kids. We had a chance to win at the end."
Colin McKenna pretty much carried Chatham (20-9) in the first half with 14 of his game-high 19 points. The junior forward dropped in 10 points in the fist quarter when the Cougars grabbed a 15-9 lead. He scored four more points in the second quarter, helping Chatham take a 21-21 tie into the halftime break.
McKenna continued where he left off in the first half with a drive of the baseline to bank in the first points of the second half. He followed with a difficult shot from under the basket that dropped as he was fouled. McKenna sank the bonus to give Chatham a 26-23 edge.
The Cougars closed out the third quarter with an 8-2 burst to take a 35-29 advantage into the fourth quarter. Freshman guard Jack Rooney hit two 3-pointers and John Burkard scored inside during the run.
Colonia (24-4) picked up its defense to take the game back in the fourth quarter, keeping the ball away from McKenna and forging a 41-37 lead for the Patriots on a putback by Kolby Chapman. Rooney sank both ends of a one-and-one situation while facing the raucous Colonia fans behind the basket, slicing it to 41-39 with 2:02 showing.
J.J. Corbett hit both ends of a one-and-one to boost the Colonia lead to 44-40. Rooney, like he has so many times this season during crunch time, drove to the basket for a shot that would have cut it to two. But his driving layup rolled off the rim and he was forced to foul with 12.6 seconds left, sending him from the game with his fifth foul.
"We couldn't have played harder," McKenna said. "This was one helluva year and we couldn't ask for anything more. I'm proud of everyone. We wouldn't have gotten there without (Rooney). He's going to be great next year."
With Colonia ahead, 45-40, DeLaney made his long 3-pointer with six seconds left. He had one last chance to touch the ball and wound up on the floor as time ran out.
"We fought to the end, unfortunately, it didn't go our way," DeLaney said. "We definitely had the opportunities. We couldn't capitalize on some of them. At least this team is going to be prepared for next year. I have no doubt in my mind they're going to come back here and go further.
"You have to make foul shots. We missed a lot at the end of the game and it could have put us in better position. They played very hard defense and made it hard to bring up the ball. It was a battle and we fought to the end. Credit to them, they played great defense and made it really hard to score."
Jack Rooney 3-pointer in the third quarter staked Chatham to a 30-=27 lead
Colin McKenna draws the foul and completes 3-point play in third quarter
Driving shot by Jack Rooney just wouldn't fall with about 15 seconds left