CHATHAM, NJ - It’s tough for a team to walk away with a victory when it puts up only 10 points in the second half.
Fortunately for the Chatham girls basketball team, it was able to do just that against Villa Walsh on Saturday in the first round of the Morris County Tournament.
The fifth-seeded Lady Cougars built enough of a cushion in the first half to withstand its dry spell after the break, eliminating the No. 12 Vikings, 38-26.
“We had the open looks,” said Chatham coach Joe Gaba, “We just weren’t knockingt hem down. We had a couple of wide open layups that we just couldn’t finish. I think if we finish, this game is a completely different story.”
Chatham looked dominant in the first half, moving to an 11-2 lead in the first quarter and taking a 28-14 lead into halftime. However, the offense went cold in the second half, as the Lady Cougars could not get good shots to fall.
“We weren’t really finishing in the second half,” Chatham guard Chloe Blanc said. “When you’re not finishing, you have to work hard in other aspects, like rebounding.”
Villa Walsh (10-10) implemented a full-court press for most of the game, making it difficult for Chatham to inbound the ball and set up offensive plays. Coach Gaba stated that the Lady Cougars needed to make the "opposite pass" in order to get easy looks at the basket, which they did. But the shots just weren't falling as often in the second half.
“I think their pressure really got to us” Chatham guard Camryn Davies said. “We were anxious with the ball. We weren’t calm like we usually are.”
Still, the Lady Cougars played well on defense throughout the game, thanks to a strong effort from 6-1 forward Veronica Kelly. Chatham forced Villa Walsh to commit multiple turnovers in the second half, which impacted the Vikings’ ability to take advantage of Chatham's cold shooting streak.
Kelly had several key interior blocks and the Vikings had trouble finding ways to score outside of the paint. Blanc led the way for Chatham, putting up 10 points. Kelly had nine points, while Davies and Liz Ford each put up eight points.
Chatham (12-7) will face off against Montville, 5 p.m. Saturday at Morris Knolls High in the second round of the MCT. The two teams squared off on Jan. 20, when Montville eked out a 39-36 victory.
“I think we’re ready for some payback,” Davies said. “I feel like we didn’t have our best game against them, so we’re ready to come out on top and play hard.”
Chloe Blanc finishes her chance in the lane for Chatham vs. Villa Walsh
Veronica Kelly follows her own shot to score inside for Chatham