FRANKLIN LAKES, NJ - Chatham's girls basketball team found itself ahead on the favored Teaneck squad on Thursday night with the reward a trip to the Group 3 title game.
But as fast as the Lady Cougars were able to develop the lead, Teaneck took it back as Chatham was having problems with the Highwaywomen's full-court press and their inside boards.
Down six points at halftime, Chatham could not handle the Teaneck half-court press and the deficit ballooned to 17 points, 56-39, three minutes into the second half.
The Cougars could not respond and were ousted from the Group 3 state tournament in the group semi-finals, 82-60, to Teaneck at Ramapo High School.
"We came here and gave it a shot," said Gaba whose team finished with a 27-4 record that included a Group 3 North 2 state championship. "We came in here with house money."
Chatham senior guard Amanda Berntsen followed up her 33 points in the Group 3 North 2 state sectional final with 31 against Teaneck including four, three-point buckets.
"If this did not make her an All Group 3 state player, I don't know what could," said Gaba about Berntsen.
Grace Conroy and Kendall Davies added a dozen points each with Davies draining, four, threes. Despite the loss Chatham head coach John Gaba could not say anymore about his team especially the seniors.
"This team has given all they could," said Gaba. "From when we got together June 11 for a summer camp, this has been a special group."
And coming into the game, Gaba believed that this level was just icing on the cake for the season.
Cougars guard Davies buried a third-point shot to give Chatham a 33-25 lead with five minutes remaining in the first half. "We did a good job of breaking their press," said Gaba who added about Berntsen. "She's a press break all by herself."
After Conroy hit one of two free throws, the Cougars held a seven-point lead, 35-28, Chatham would go on a drought the rest of the second quarter scoring only five points in the final three minutes.
The one-time eight point lead turned into a six-point deficit, 45-39.
Despite halftime talk, Teaneck was able to put the halftime trap on them and would score 11 unanswered points before Davies would hit another three.
Chatham's undoing came inside where Highwaywomen's Kayla Gibbs flourished inside with 26 points along Deja Gabbidon with 17 points. “She (Gibbs) was cleaning up inside,” said Gaba.