MADISON, NJ - The Chatham boys lacrosse team came within three seconds of breaking its 28-year championship drought in the Morris County Tournament, losing in the final to Delbarton on Tuesday for the second time in three years.
Chatham held a one-goal lead until Delbarton forced overtime when Emmet Cordrey scored a man-up goal with three seconds left in regulation. In overtime, Delbarton scored on another man-up situation, getting a goal from Troy Hanlon to win it, 8-7, in sudden-death overtime at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
It was the third straight MCT title for Delbarton (14-1), ranked No. 1 in the state by NJ.com, and its 14th county title overall.
A tripping call with 21 seconds left in regulation gave Delbarton the advantage it needed to tie the game and an offsides call against Chatham gave the Green Wave another man-up situation that led to Hanlon's goal.
Up to those closing seconds of regulation, Chatham (10-9) was the team which had played the better overall game and would have been the deserving victor.
"It's tough being that close and losing," Cougar senior Will Barnett, who had three goals, said. "We worked so hard getting back from 2-7 to get back to .500, to beat Lakes and get here, and be up 5-2 at halftime.
"It's definitely disappointing, but Chatham lacrosse is coming alive at this time. We're peaking at the right time. I feel like a Group 2 state championship is definitely in our vision."
Even after allowing the tying goal with three seconds left, Chatham was still on its game and looking more like the No. 1 team than its opponent. Justin Hayes won the faceoff to open overtime and Pat Cosgrove picked up the ground ball to give the Cougars possession.
Evan Bernard's blistering shot from up top was just off the mark for Chatham before tournament MVP Hanlon ended it for Delbarton.
"We were trying to be patient the whole game," Barnett said. "We weren't holding anything back. That was our game plan going in. We had it right there. I guess we took the pedal off the gas for a minute or so."
Delbarton had opened to a 2-0 lead before Chatham reeled off five straight goals. Austin Pierce received a pass from Nate Carson and made a downhill run for a goal that ignited the run. Barnett then scored off a feed from Pierce to make it 2-2 heading into the second quarter.
Bernard converted a pass from Thomas Berger to open the second quarter for the Cougars before Barnett buried his shot off a pass from behind the net from Matt Coleman. Then, with 6:09 left in the half, Berger came from behind the net and faked an overhead pass before turning the corner and firing home a shot for a 5-2 advantage.
In the third quarter, Delbarton scored two goals in a span of five seconds to cut its deficit to 5-4. Barnett then wound up for an underhand shot off a pass from Berger, sending Chatham to a 6-4 lead with 34 seconds left in the period.
Berger beat a double-team behind the net to catch the Delbarton goalie out of the net, scoring to give the Cougars a 7-5 advantage with 3:43 left in regulation.
"I thought we played great," Chatham coach Tony Calandra said. "I'm proud of their effort. I just told them that we were 2-7 a month ago and we didn't stop playing, and this isn't going to deter us from continuing to get better.
"I feel we're one of the best teams in the state and we just have to keep getting better. Give Delbarton credit for coming back, but we did a great job. We stayed with our game plan and came up one goal short. We'll look at the positives. We forced them to turn the ball over and won faceoffs. This isn't tougher than being 2-7."
Chatham plays a regular-season game at Kinnelon on Thursday, before opening the state tournament on Saturday.
Will Barnett scores in first quarter to tie the game at 2-2 for Chatham
Thomas Berger fakes a pass and then scores to make it 5-2 for Chatham
Will Barnett scores to give Chatham a 6-4 lead with 34 seconds left in the third quarter