CHATHAM, NJ - Last March, Chatham and Orange met on the basketball court in the state sectional semifinals and the Cougars pulled out an intense two-point victory.
Each team has changed since then, but Chatham gave a preview of what kind of team it can be this season with a surprisingly easy 70-46 victory over the Tornadoes on Wednesday evening.
In that 68-66 state playoff victory last season, Colin McKenna scored 21 points and Jack Rooney ended with 18. In the latest meeting, McKenna led the way with 20 points and Rooney dropped in 17.
What made this game seem different was that every Cougar who stepped on the court played well. Tristan LeMon scored 11 points and Mac Bredahl came off the bench to contribute eight points for Chatham (3-0).
"We certainly have some guys who can score," Chatham coach Todd Ervin said. "I was a little surprised. I hadn't seen them in person, but I certainly didn't think this was going to happen. When we're playing well, the ball is moving around and everyone is getting opportunities."
Orange (0-3) scored the first five points in the game before Chatham reeled off the next 11 points, ignited by a Stefan Goles driving bank shot and capped by Jake Bevich's baseline drive. In between those two baskets were seven points by McKenna, two on spin moves to the hoop.
Chatham closed the first quarter with a basket by Johnny Maurer and a 3-pointer from LeMon to make it a 16-9 Cougar advantage.
"Nothing was easy," McKenna said. "They're a very good team, they're very athletic and very scrappy, but we stuck to our game plan. We knew they didn't have a lot of height and we tried to capitalize on that. When they started pinching down on us, Rooney, Bevich, Tristan and Bredahl and Maurer, all the guards got open threes and that worked out for us as well."
Chatham opened the second quarter with a 10-1 burst. Bredahl sank a 3-pointer from the right wing, Rooney scored on a beautiful floater in the lane and LeMon dropped in a 3-pointer on a kick-out pass from McKenna. A bank shot by McKenna pushed the lead to 26-10.
"I didn't expect the score, but nothing was easy," McKenna said. "We had a very good scouting report and we knew everyone's strength and tendencies. That's what basically won the game. We came in well prepared and kept the intensity high the whole game. We've got an extremely unselfish team and that works so well for us."
In the final 1:10 of the first half, the Cougars scored eight quick points to make it 34-15 at the break. McKenna sank a foul shot, but when he missed the second attempt, Goles grabbed the rebound and scored. Rooney then hit a 3-pointer before driving the lane for a layup with 13 seconds to go.
With 4:58 left in the third quarter, McKenna was whistled for his fourth personal foul and had to sit. But Bredahl hit a 3-pointer and LeMon converted a layup off a sharp pass from Maurer to make it 49-21.
Rooney left no doubt about the outcome when he opened the fourth quarter with two straight 3-point baskets.
Stefan Goles drives to hit a bank shot against Orange in the first half
Orange had no answer for Colin McKenna's inside game, which produced 20 points for Chatham