CHATHAM, NJ - Junior forward Chris Conlin described Chatham's state tournament boys basketball game against South Plainfield on Tuesday as having the feel of a "pickup game."
A pickup game where No. 2 seed Chatham took the floor with a stacked team against No. 15 South Plainfield in the opening round of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 state tournament.
The Cougars started out on a roll and never let up in posting a 76-33 win over South Plainfield. The 43-point margin of victory was the largest of the season for Chatham and the 76 points tied for its highest single-game point total.
Sophomore guard Ryan Doherty, playing in his first state tournament game, dropped in three straight 3-pointers late in the first quarter. His two 3-pointers in the final minute of the opening quarter staked Chatham (19-6) to a 17-7 lead.
Sophomore guard drained three straight 3-pointers in the first quarter for Chatham
In the second quarter, it just got worse for South Plainfield (10-15), which was outscored, 19-2, in the period as Chatham took a 36-9 advantage into the break.
Mac Bredahl started off the second for the Cougars with a three-point play, followed by a steal that he took all the way in for two points, igniting a 15-0 run. Donnie McAuliffe converted a pass from Graham LeMon (14 points) and Conlin dropped in a running one-hander before John Burkard scored off a Conlin feed. Two straight baskets by LeMon made it 32-7.
Jack Rooney closed out the first half for Chatham with a behind-the-back drive for a layup.
"We made some shots, we got some easy looks and we defended real well to start the game," Chatham coach Todd Ervin said. "I think they kind of realized it was going to be hard to score on us the way we were playing."
Chatham managed to turn up its game despite losing starter Johnny Maurer with a wrist injury in late January. Conlin stepped in to take over the starting vacancy left by Maurer's absence.
"I'd be remiss if I didn't say we're doing all this without a starter, probably our second or third best player," Ervin said. "I feel awful for the kid that he's hurt, but the fact that we moved down one guy in our rotation and played this good is unbelievable. Johnny (Maurer) was playing as good as anyone. To do all this without him in there is key."
Conlin hit for 10 of his 12 points in the third quarter, sandwiching two 3-pointers around a Rooney 3-pointer to highlight a 25-point period that expanded the Cougars lead to 61-23.
"We've bee working on less dribbling, more passing, move the ball around, over the last month," Ervin said. "That's always been our style anyway. Everyone should get a touch, distribute the scoring and not have one guy do all our scoring for us."
Guard Jack Rooney drops in a 3-pointer during Chatham's 25-point third quarter
Chris Conlin scored 10 of his 12 points in the third quarter for Chatham
Chatham will play host to Mendham in the second round of the state tournament set for 7 p.m. Thursday.