CHATHAM, NJ - There was not going to be a last-second, game-winning shot made by Chatham guard Jack Rooney in this basketball game. That much was clear when Chatham and Irvington headed to respective locker rooms at halftime.
Rooney had made closing-second shots to defeat Gov. Livingston and then Snyder in the previous two games of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 state tournament. But the senior was mostly a spectator on Tuesday night when Chatham built a 27-point lead over the first two quarters of its 61-45 win over Irvington for the 2018 state sectional championship. Chatham won its first and last sectional title in 2007.
Senior guard Mac Bredahl scored 17 of his game-high 20 points in the first half and junior guard Ryan Doherty dropped in all 18 of his points when the Cougars raced to a stunning 45-18 halftime lead.
Chatham (26-5) now meets Section 1 champion Demarest (24-5), 7 p.m. Thursday in East Orange. Demarest edged Ramapo, 37-36, in its sectional final.
"Unbelievable first half," Chatham coach Todd Ervin said. "We played good defense, we made shots. We worked really hard, we got rebounds, we didn't turn the ball over. This is great, especially for Jack and Mac, four years of getting there and not winning."
Chatham was making its fourth straight bid to win the sectional crown, having lost to Colonia, Warren Hills (in 2 OTs) and Barringer in overtime the past three seasons.
Rooney, the all-time leading boys scorer in school history, picked up his third foul early in the second quarter and was sent to the bench. That gave him one of the best seats in the house as teammates Bredahl and Doherty took the game over, combining to score 35 of the 45 points in the first half.
"I've never been in that much foul trouble in my career," Rooney said. "I hate to do it in the state finals, but I love this team so much. Everyone stepped up big time. Four times is the charm. I can't describe it. It's really the best feeling. They were unbelievable. When Mac is playing like that, we can do anything."
Senior guards Jack Rooney and Mac Bredahl talk about winning the sectional title
Irvington (18-11) had scored the first two points of the game before the Cougars went on a 20-2 run, fueled by Doherty and Bredahl. After two free throws by Rooney, Doherty scored three straight baskets, including a drive to the basket (see video below) and a floater in the lane (see below).
It was then Bredahl's turn and he turned up his game to Mac-speed, dropping in a fast-break layup, draining a 3-pointer from the left wing and then streaking past everyone to finish a left-handed layup (see below.
Bredahl then completed his personal run of 10 straight points with a one-handed shot that dropped through as he fell to the floor (see video below). He was fouled on the play and hit the bonus free throw.
The Cougars closed out the second quarter with a 19-4 run, with Doherty sinking three foul shots, Bredahl connecting on a 3-pointer and Chris Conlin making all three free throws after being fouled taking a 3-pointer. Doherty continued his hot streak by grabbing an offensive rebound and banking it home. Andrew Bergman chipped in with two free throws.
Doherty then scored off another offensive rebound and senior Kurt Sacco hit a foul shot and, seconds later, fed Doherty, who capped the remarkable first half with a 3-pointer from the right corner to make it 45-18.
Ryan Doherty talks about his big first half for Chatham vs. Irvington
COUGAR NOTES: There were 40 fouls called on both teams in the first half, 16 on Chatham ... Rooney, Bredahl and Dan Baker each had 3 fouls, and E.J. Leskauskas had 4 fouls in the first half for Chatham ... In the first half, Bredahl and Doherty combined to score 35 points and shot 12 of 16 from the floor (75 percent). Bredahl (5-for-7 from the floor) hit two 3-pointers and all five of his fouls shots in the first half while Doherty (7 for 9) sank three of his four fouls ... Bredahl ended with three rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block to go with his 20 points ... Doherty collected 18 points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal ... Conlin had 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals while Bergman pulled down 6 rebounds.