MADISON, NJ - All the great work Chatham did to take a two-goal lead into the halftime break disappeared into a Green Wave that pulled the Cougars under water during a span of less than a minute of the third quarter.
Chatham recovered in time to tie the game in the fourth quarter on Chris Francesco's third goal of the game, but Garrett Samuelson answered with a personal three-goal burst that sent the Delbarton boys lacrosse team to its fifth straight Morris County Tournament title, 10-8, on Tuesday night at FDU.
The result ended a 12-game winning streak by Chatham (14-2) and denied the school its first-ever county title. Delbarton, ranked No. 1 in the state by NJ.com and the only team to beat No 2-ranked Chatham this season, not only won its fifth straight MCT crown, it collected its 16th title in the 30-year history of the county tournament.
"They jumped out real quick," Chatham coach Tony Calandra said of the second half. "They won a couple faceoffs and a two-goal lead went to a two-goal deficit. Then we kind of got back into it. We had some untimely calls and some tough times. Our effort was good, we just had a little bit of a lapse in that third quarter. We've got to play 48 minutes of lacrosse."
Chatham got off to a good start when Ryan Decker's goal (see video below) made it 1-0 for the Cougars, 1:10 into the action.
Later in the first period, Mac Bredahl played a waiting game behind the net until he found an open Frank Anello, who put his chance away to make it 2-2. Ryan Chase then connected with a shot (see video below) from up top after receiving a pass from Evan Gavalakis with 3:21 left in the opening peirod.
in the second quarter, the score was tied, 3-3, before Francesco blasted home a high shot off a feed from Thomas Berger.
Chatham pushed its lead to 5-3 with just 20 seconds left in the first half. Connor Byrd picked up a ground ball in transition and bounced it over to Bredahl, who charged left, then spun back in the opposite direction and delivered a shot (see video below) that made it a two-goal lead for the Cougars at halftime.
But when Delbarton (12-1) won the faceoff to open the second half and put together a three-goal spree in just 58 seconds, Chatham was playing an uphill battle.
"They kind of punched us in the mouth early in the second half," Bredahl said. "We couldn't fully regroup. We did a good job to come back and tie it up at 7-7, but they still had momentum and they were getting ground balls. We couldn't turn it around. We had a few good looks in the fourth, but we couldn't make it work."
Francesco, who played at Delbarton before returning to Chatham last season, had one of his best games against his old teammates, making two downhill runs to score twice unassisted in the fourth quarter. Francesco's goal 59 seconds into the final period made it a 7-7 game. He also scored with 5:30 left, slicing the deficit to 10-8, but that was the last tally of the game for Chatham.
"We came out strong in the first half," Francesco said. "Second half, the first two minutes they scored three immediately so it was kind of brutal. We played a good game overall, except minus those two or three minutes.
"It stinks to not win the county championship. It would have been the first in school history. Being a senior and not getting another chance to do it hurts. Now we're looking forward to the state playoffs and winning a state championship."
Chris Francesco scores unassisted to tie the score at 7-7 in the fourth quarter for Chatham
Chatham, the defending Group 2 state champion, would have to repeat as state champions in hopes of meeting Delbarton again in Tournament of Champions.
"I break the season into three phases," Calandra said. "Regular season, county tournament, state tournament. At this point, this can't define our season, just like beating Summit and Seton Hall didn't define our season. So we still have another full season to go. Today wasn't good enough, but hopefully, next time it will be."