GLEN GARDNER, NJ - After a thrilling run in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 State Tournament, No. 4 seed Chatham was eliminated with a close loss to No. 1 seed Voorhees, 47-40, Friday at Voorhees High School.
Chatham (19-9) had its season come to an end, and a senior class led by four-year starter Cassandra Falone, have played their last game for the Lady Cougars.
“This senior class restored our tradition of Chatham basketball and instilled what it means to play for this program,” Chatham coach Joe Gaba said. “I think the younger kids learned a valuable lesson from them moving forward.”
Chatham should feel good about its season as the Lady Cougars really played well, especially in the state tournament. Chatham won two close battles to get to the semi-finals, and they were almost able to pull off the upset against top seeded Voorhees (24-2).
“They’re a really good team,” Gaba said. “I would never take anything away from them, but the resiliency that our kids showed tonight was tremendous.”
Chatham started off quick with Falone making a 3-pointer 10 seconds into the game, for a 3-0 lead. The opening 10 seconds was the only time Chatham would lead in the whole game. Voorhees answered back with a 3-pointer of its own on their first possession, and never looked back.
Chatham struggled a bit early on, going down 18-6 at the end of the first quarter. The longer the game went on though, the more Chatham seemed to figure out Voorhees. They started slowly chipping away at the lead.
“We had a lot of really clean looks against their zones in the first half and we still had those looks in the second half, we just made them in the second half,” Gaba said.
Allie Best scored nine points and Erin Jones scored six points for Voorhees in the first half. A change in defensive strategy allowed Chatham to slow them down in the second half, where both were held to only one field goal apiece. Chatham’s plan involved using freshman Michaela Ford to defend Best. Best would finish with a game-high 14 points, and Jones would finish with 12.
Voorhees’ defensive strategy worked well for them. They played a mixture of 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones, forcing Chatham to mostly shoot 3-pointers. Chatham only hit two in the first half, but they hit four in the second half, including three in the fourth quarter, sparking their comeback opportunity. Falone made three 3-pointers, Liz Ford made two and Camryn Davies made one.
“The frustrating thing about them is their length,” Gaba said. “Their length affected our looks at the basket and that’s why they’re so effective at their zones.”
Veronica Kelly did most of the work for Chatham down low, totaling a team-high 12 points, pulling down eight rebounds, and blocking four shots. Falone would also get into double digits with 11 points.
Despite making it a tight game down to the wire, Chatham just couldn't mount another comeback despite a great effort.
“We are going to celebrate what this team has accomplished this year,” Gaba said.