CHATHAM, NJ - It started with some nostalgia for Chatham head boys basketball coach Todd Ervin, who received a gift from his former players, most notably Billy Oliver, to commemorate his 25th year of coaching the Cougars.
In between, current players Tristan LeMon and Jack Rooney scored 17 points apiece to lead Chatham before senior Matt Gentile tied a bow on the evening with a 3-point buzzer beater that closed out a 66-44 victory over New Providence in the opening night of the Cougar Classic on Saturday.
Four members of the 2007 Chatham state championship team - Oliver, Kevin Conroy, Justin Cosgrove and Matt McHugh were on hand to delivery a tapestry with a photo of the 2007 team on it.
The current Cougars, now 4-0, are still weaving their own story this season.
"It's good seeing all the former players, that's the best part," said Ervin, after his team had secured his 407th career victory. "We played pretty well defensively. We had open shots, we just didn't make them in the first half. We made them in the second half. I think that was the difference."
After New Providence (1-2) scored nine straight points to end the first half and cut the deficit to 26-22, Chatham put together a 22-6 blitz in the third quarter to make it a 48-28 game entering the final period.
LeMon scored 13 of his points in the third quarter, including three 3-pointers. His third came from the top of the key and dropped through seconds before the period ended.
"They did a very good job of denying the post and a lot of times I'd get the ball in the post and they'd double or triple me, so there were people open," Chatham senior Colin McKenna said. "We were looking for Tristan out on the wing. I knew Tristan would be there to knock one down and that's what he did."
Chatham left no doubt in the fourth quarter when Rooney hit a 3-pointer off a pass from Mac Bredahl and John Burkard converted a conventional three-point play. Rooney followed with a baseline drive for two points before swishing a 3-pointer from the corner to make it a 59-33 bulge with 4:34 to play.
McKenna, who finished with 11 points, had only one regret. He missed a chance to throw down a dunk on a fast break. The senior hasn't accomplished a dunk in his high school career and, according to him, it hasn't been done by a Chatham player since 2011.
"I think I was at the game when it last happened," McKenna said. "It was a state tournament game and Colin Brown dunked. That was when I was in 8th grade."
McKenna got his chance midway through the third quarter, but his two-handed attempt at a dunk banged off the rim.
"I kind of bobbled the ball at the foul line and I probably started my jump too far away," he said. "I should have made it. In front of all these people, that would have been nice. There is no excuse for that. We won the game, that's all that matters. The goal is to win as many games as possible."
Chatham meets Summit, 8 p.m. Monday in the next round of the Cougar Classic.
Tristan LeMon drains a 3-pointer to end the third quarter for Chatham
Jake Bevich sinks a 3-pointer in the third quarter for Chatham