MORRISTOWN, NJ - For superstitious Chatham fans, there is the 13 shots in a row missed by the Cougars in the first half to consider in the Friday the 13th boys basketball loss to Morristown-Beard.
"My mother told me that Ervin's are lucky on the 13th," Chatham coach Todd Ervin said. "Didn't happen tonight."
Harder to believe than any Friday-the-13th jinx is the fact that Chatham forward Graham LeMon led all scorers with 26 points and it still was an offensive struggle for the Cougars in the 69-62 setback to Morristown-Beard, which represented the first defeat of 2017 and the end of a 9-game winning streak.
Senior guard Brian Monaghan, a 1,000-point scorer for the Crimson, scored 16 of his team-high 23 points for Morristown-Beard (9-2) in the first half. His fourth 3-pointer of the game with 1:59 showing in the first half had given the Crimson a 31-13 lead.
"It's really hard to come back from 18," Chatham guard Jack Rooney said. "I think we got it down to six at one point, but basketball is a game of spurts, like I've said, and they just had a longer spurt than we did. They're a great team. Offensively, they're one of the best offensive teams in Morris County."
John Burkard's driving shot (see video below) had handed the Cougars an 11-9 edge with about three and a half minutes left in the first quarter. But that would be Chatham's last lead of the game. Monaghan scored 10 points to fuel an 18-0 run that spanned the first and second quarters and staked the Crimson to a 27-9 led midway through the second period. During that run, the Cougars (9-2) misfired on 13 consecutive shots.
"It's just one of those nights," Rooney said. "It's not like we weren't getting open shots, we just weren't hitting them. We're really bummed, but we're looking forward to bouncing back."
Ryan Doherty snapped the scoreless drought for Chatham by sinking a jumper with 2:49 left in the second quarter. The Cougars scored the final seven points of the half, slicing the deficit to 31-20 at the break. LeMon started the run by converting a nice pass from Mac Bredahl. Rooney (17 points) then hit a 3-pointer with 58 seconds showing and converted both ends of a one-and-one situation with point-7 seconds to go.
The Cougars then rode on the back of the 6-6, 290-pound LeMon in the third quarter. The senior scored 13 points in the period, hitting 6-of-7 shots and completed a three-point play by sinking a free throw.
"They were trying to double-down on me in the post and they couldn't really cover me," LeMon said. "My teammates made a lot of good passes when I was open and that was nice. They were making a lot of tough threes and we were missing a lot of open threes. So it's kind of tough when we're missing shots. We played okay defensively, but we gave up 69 points and that shouldn't happen."
For the game, LeMon connected on 12 of 14 shots from the floor and made both of his free throws in completing two three-point plays.
In the fourth quarter, Johnny Maurer made a steal and passed it to Bredahl for a fast-break layup as he was fouled. Bredahl sank the bonus free throw to cut the Morristown-Beard lead to 59-53 with 2:55 left. But the Crimson held on by sinking eight of 12 free throws over the final 1:28 of action.
Both Burkard and Bredahl fouled out of the game for Chatham, which plays next against Pope John, 7 p.m. Tuesday at home.
"Having Burkard inside is a big advantage for us," Ervin said. "Him getting in foul trouble didn't help us any. That's for sure. The issue was defense. We didn't have a great night defensively and they shot the ball awesome. A bad combination."
Graham LeMon scores two of his game-high 26 points for Chatham with the offensive board
John Burkard goes hard to the basket after receiving a pass from Johnny Maurer