CHATHAM, NJ - Things were going so well for the Chatham girls basketball team on Monday night that the shots were still falling well after the game was over.
After a big second half lifted Chatham to a 57-40 victory over Columbia in the Cougar Classic, senior guard Shea Matta connected on a half-court shot to win a T-shirt from the Chatham Athletic Boosters during halftime of the boys game.
"It banked in, but I called it," joked Matta.
There was a lot to smile about after Chatham's Lady Cougars improved to 2-2 with a great all-around effort against the Lady Cougars of Columbia (2-3), who got 12 points in the first half from Dominique Rayam to take a 24-23 edge into the halftime break.
"We knew their dribble-penetration could give us some problems," Chatham coach Joe Gaba said. "I always like switching defenses coming out of halftime so the other team can't make the adjustments. We played a little bit of a 1-3-1 at the end of the first half and we got some turnovers out of it. So we knew we wanted to play a zone in the second half. It's a simple game when you make shots."
Two straight baskets by Rayam had staked Columbia to a 22-14 lead in the second quarter, but junior guard Cassandra Falone led a 9-2 Chatham surge over the final 2:52 of the half to close the gap to one point. Falone it a 3-pointer off a pass from Liz Ford. She then sank two free throws and followed by knocking down a jumper in the lane. Ford scored off an offensive board to cut the deficit to 24-23.
"We had a lot of catching up to do in the second quarter and we just ran with it in the third quarter," Chatham senior Olivia Diaz-Saavedra said. "Our shots were falling. They didn't get as many drives inside, which was killing us. The freshman had a big impact tonight. We all worked well as a team together."
Chatham opened the third quarter with an 18-4 blitz that seemed to involve everyone who touched the ball. Senior Morgan Monson began the half by scoring off an inbound pass from Matta. Diaz-Saavedra (10 points) sank two free throws and Falone (13 points) drained a 3-pointer from the left wing. Matta then fed Diaz-Saavedra, who swished a foul-line jumper.
Matta then dropped in a 3-pointer and followed with a baseline drive for two points about a minute later before she passed to Chloe Blanc for a layup. Freshman center Veronica Kelly scored on a strong drive to give Chatham a 41-28 lead with 2:25 showing in the third quarter.
"I was really proud of us, the fact that we were able to come back and get up by 10," Matta said. "It wasn't just one person today. Everyone contributed. The freshmen did really well. They're starting to get more comfortable with the ball and I was really happy with the way they played."
Rayam only scored one point in the second half to finish with 13 points and Jordan Fields wound up with a team-high 14 points for Columbia.
"We had great energy in the first half and then we just ran out of gas toward the end," Columbia coach Jazmine Wright said. "Kudos to Chatham for recognizing that we were struggling. We couldn't really recover from the the deficit we were in."
Olivia Diaz-Saavedra scores backdoor layup off a pass from Cassandra Falone for Chatham in video below