CHATHAM, NJ - If it had been a regular season game, Chatham's girls basketball scrimmage loss to Watchung Hills, 47-42 in overtime, on Tuesday would have been a tough one to take.
But Chatham coach Joe Gaba was able to look at it differently as he prepares his team for the season opener set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Matawan Regional vs. Fenway High School of Massachusetts.
"This is actually good for us," Gaba said. "We basically played really well in our first few scrimmages and if we were overconfident, today took care of it."
Sophomore guard Michaela Ford nearly won it for Chatham on the final play of the fourth quarter with a drive to the basket (see video below), but her scoop basket was nullified by a travel call whistled by the official. That sent the game into overtime tied at 38-38.
When Chatham's 6-1 center Veronica Kelly fouled out with 2:12 left in the overtime, Watchung Hills pulled away to win it. But the Lady Cougars did enough to lose the game long before Kelly fouled out.
"The problem was the turnovers," Gaba said. "We just made so many mistakes. We turned the ball over way too many times against a zone we should have absolutely no problem with is disappointing. The thing I'm disappointed with is that we made some really poor decisions. We have kids fouling 90 feet away from the basket, just really not smart things that we did today."
Junior guard Camryn Davies led the way early for Chatham, scoring 11 of her team-high 19 points in the first quarter when Chatham moved to a 12-9 lead. Davies would finish the game with five 3-pointers.
The turnovers started to hurt the Lady Cougars in the second quarter when they scored just two points - a jump shot by freshman Hannah Kelly - and trailed, 20-14, at the halftime break.
Chatham started to get its act together in the third quarter. Michaela Ford hit a free throw and when she missed her second foul shot, Veronica Kelly grabbed the rebound and scored. She was fouled and sank the bonus free throw. Later in the period, the Lady Cougars reeled off 11 straight points with consecutive 3-pointers made by Davies, Liz Ford and then Davies again before Kelly's basket made it 31-24 for Chatham.
Despite foul trouble that limited the playing time of one of Chatham's best offensive players, junior guard Chloe Blanc, the score was tied at 36-36 in the final minute. Kelly scored on an in-bounds pass from Davies to give the Lady Cougars a two-point edge. But Watchung Hills tied it up with nine seconds to go and Ford's basket was waved off.
Veronica Kelly finished with 10 points and was intimidating on the defensive end. She scored all of her points after the first half.
"Her help-side defense was really good," Gaba said. "Her shots are going to fall, but keeping yourself in the game is what she needs to do."
This basket by Michaela Ford on the final play of the fourth quarter would have won the scrimmage for Chatham, but it was whistled as a travel, forcing the overtime
Camryn Davies scored 11 points in the first quarter for Chatham, including three on this shot
Michaela Ford grabs the offensive rebound and finishes with a bank shot for Chatham