CHATHAM, NJ - Todd Ervin-coached Chatham boys basketball teams are known for exclusively playing man-to-man defense. The rare exception came in the fourth quarter of Thursday night's state sectional quarterfinal against Mendham.
The Minutemen had hit seven 3-pointers through the first three quarters of the game to pull within two points of the Cougars. But a switch to a matchup zone sparked a 12-point run to start the fourth quarter and sent Chatham past Mendham for the third time this season, 50-34, in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 state tournament.
No. 2 seed Chatham (20-6) will play host to No. 3 Orange (20-5), 7 p.m. Saturday in the state sectional semifinals. Two years ago, Chatham squeaked by Orange, 68-66, in the same round of the tournament.
"They shot the ball unbelievable, especially from three," Ervin said of Mendham. "We had a problem matching up Graham (LeMon) on a guard. It was easier to keep him down low."
Mac Bredahl's steal that he took in for a layup had given Chatham a 33-31 edge entering the final period. That's when the Cougars used its zone to shut down Mendham (12-12) and take over the game. The Minutemen did not score in the fourth quarter until Andrew Kraemer hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game with 1:01 to play.
"We switched over to a matchup zone in the fourth quarter and we kind of stalled their offense and got a few steals," Bredahl said. "We've only done it twice. We played (a zone) against them earlier in the year."
The 6-6 LeMon, who led the Cougars with 17 points, opened the fourth quarter by converting a lob pass from Bredahl.
Bredahl, who finished with 11 points, then dashed in for a fast-break layup off a pass from Chris Conlin. A minute later, Jack Rooney (13 points) drove by his man to finish a layup.
LeMon then got the ball to Conlin, who drained a 3-pointer that staked the Cougars to a 42-31 advantage with 3:40 to play.
Rooney connected on both ends of a one-and-one situation and Bredahl hit a free throw to push the Cougar lead to 45-31 with 1:10 showing on the clock.
Graham LeMon talks about the matchup zone and reaching the sectional semifinals
In the opening quarter, Rooney and Bredahl hit back-to-back 3-pointers, sparking Chatham to a 16-6 lead. But Kraemer's 3-pointer late in the third quarter tied it at 31-31. Mendham never led at any point in the game.