CHATHAM, N.J. - Though the Chatham boys' basketball team never trailed in the second half of Tuesday's state tournament game against Governor Livingston, thoughts of last week's second half blunder in the Morris County crept into the mind of head coach Todd Ervin.
The Cougars, with a record of 20-5 and the top seed in the North Jersey 2, Group 3 tournament, lost a heartbreaker on Sunday to Mount Olive, getting outscored 17-2 in the fourth quarter. However on Tuesday, Chatham did just enough to escape with a 51-47 win over the Highlanders.
"I don't know if I was concerned, but I knew it could happen," Ervin said. "Fortunately we hit some shots and got up far enough where we could hopefully shoot free-throws the rest of the way. We did. We didn't make them all, but we did shoot them."
The Cougars hit 6-of-9 from the line in the final minute, just barely holding on to the win as No. 16 Governor Livingston's Matt Parmett sunk two 3-pointers in the final 25 seconds to cut a nine-point lead down to four in the final four seconds.
Parmett scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Highlanders in their failed comeback attempt. He finished the game with a game-high 18 points.
With star forwards Sam Carson and Joe Timmes limited from the field, Chatham was able to get big shots in the second from several role players, including Drew Ballard.
With the score tied at 29 in the late stages of the third quarter, Ballard hit a corner three to put Chatham up for good. The senior finished with four points, including the final point of the game for Chatham from the charity stripe.
"That's how we've been all season," Ballard said. "Basically, every guy on this team can shoot. It depends on whose hot."
The Cougars had seven different players score in the game, with Timmes, Carson, Luke Conrad and Robert Raiola each putting up nine points.
"We got 10 guys who can play," Irvin said. "I think everyone contributed. It certainly wasn't a great offensive performance by us, but they played a good zone and kept us off balance."
The Cougars will host No. 8 Plainfield in the section quarterfinals. The Cardinals beat No. 9 Nutley 60-38 on Tuesday night.
Ballard said Governor Livingston was a good test for Chatham, as they are better than their record indicated.
"I thought it was a good test for us in the first round," he said. "Governor Livingston certainly isn't a bad No. 16 seed. It was good to just come out here get the win and move on to Thursday."