MOUNTAIN LAKES, NJ - In the future when people look back on the record books to research the first time the Chatham girls basketball team won the Morris County Tournament, the name of Veronica Kelly will always be prominently mentioned.
The 6-2 senior was named the Most Valuable Player of the 41st Morris County Tournament this season when Chatham claimed its first-ever county title for the girls program.
On Wednesday, Kelly was joined by teammates Chloe Blanc and Michaela Ford when the Morris County Girls Basketball Coaches Association honored its all-county team with an awards luncheon held at the Zeris Inn. It was Kelly's third selection to the all-county coaches team.
"You couldn't really mention Chatham basketball without mentioning Veronica," Chatham coach Joe Gaba said. "She has been one of those transitional players for us. She helped restore our tradition back at Chatham."
Kelly, who will continue her basketball career at Dartmouth College, finished No. 4 on Chatham's girls all-time scoring chart with 1,165 points as the 10th Lady Cougar to top 1,000 points. But scoring wasn't her only contribution. She finished as the school's No. 1 rebounder with 890 and as the No. 1 shot blocker with 282. At the foul line, she concluded her career with an 81 percent accuracy rate.
This season, Kelly averaged 11.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while shooting 46 percent from the floor. All those numbers improved in the Morris County Tournament.
"Those numbers went up in the MCT to 13 points and nine rebounds per game," Gaba said. "Her shooting percentage went to 49 percent and she made 90 percent of her free throws. You have to defend her and that allowed our guards to have more room. I'm sure most coaches game-planned on how to stop her. I'm proud to have her here three times."
Gaba, selected as the Morris County Coach of the Year by his peers, also introduced senior guard Blanc and junior point guard Ford. His remarks on each player are below.
Chloe Blanc: I'd like to use the word perseverance to describe her. In my 21 years of coaching, I've had a lot of sad, bad moments and really high moments. Chloe gets to be the recipient of two of those. One of the worst memories of my coaching career was a year ago, seeing her in a wheelchair at CCM, essentially in tears because she couldn't play in that semifinal game, which subsequently put me in tears. Fast forward one year later in that same exact game and she goes out and hits the first five points for us against Morris Catholic. It just shows the hard work she put in to get back to that point. It's really quite simple, while she was out, starting Feb. 15 of 2016 until we got her back, we were 2-10. From Jan. 9th forward we were 17-3. She was probably the biggest difference in our lineup. She averaged 7.1 ppg. and her 690 career points are 19th all-time. If she hadn't gotten injured she'd probably have scored 1,000 points. Her turnover rate was 2.2 percent for all the time when she was involved in the play.
Michaela Ford: If you're in this room, she probably guarded you at some point. I'm really pleased with how our coaches recognize defensive effort. She basically set the tempo for how we wanted to play this year. On the offensive end, she had to handle the ball for us and go up against a tremendous amount pressure, especially in the Morris County Tournament and that final game with the pressure Morristown put on us. One of the stats we track all year is assist rate an turnover rate. Her assist rate was 22 percent, which means all the times she handled the ball, which was all the time, 22 percent of the time it ended in an assist. Her turnover rate is just 4.6 percent. She's just a tremendous kid. Her favorite stat is whether we won or lost.
Marquetta Dickens, a four-year starter at North Carolina State, was the guest speaker at the coaches awards luncheon. She was an assistant coach at Monmouth University before taking over the head coaching position at St. Elizabeth Academy this past season.