RANDOLPH, NJ - Last spring, they used their long sticks on defense to help Chatham win the Group 2 state boys lacrosse championship.
On Saturday night, Kyle Kology and Chris Conlin used their bare hands to help Chatham snatch its second straight Morris County Tournament Championship on the basketball court at the County College of Morris.
Kology and Conlin teamed up to stifle top-seeded Morristown-Beard's high-powered offense in helping Chatham score a 60-55 win in the MCT final.
"Without them, we wouldn't have won the game," Chatham guard Jack Rooney said. "Chris and Kyle I think are the two best defenders in Morris County. They really shut their forwards down. Kyle had a bunch of offensive rebounds. Without them, we wouldn't have won the game. It's really ironic that the two best defenders came up with that play."
The play Rooney was referring to came in the closing seconds. Rooney had made one foul shot to give the Cougars a 58-55 lead with 6.3 seconds to go. But when he missed the second free throw, Crimson leading scorer Brian Monaghan was streaking down the court with a chance to put up a game-tying 3-pointer.
Monaghan never got that chance. Kology poked the ball loose and Conlin secured the ball before he was fouled with one second to go. Conlin sank both free throws to clinch Chatham's second straight MCT crown.
"I was just running back on defense and (Monaghan) happened to cross the ball in front of me and I just poked it away," Kology said. "I thought we locked them down on defense in the second half. This was probably the best rebounding game we've had all season. I thought everyone helped out on the defensive side. Our goal coming in was no second shots."
Kology, a 6-5 senior, finished with four points, an assist, a steal and eight rebounds, including a pivotal rebound in the fourth quarter. Tournament MVP Graham LeMon had just scored to put Chatham up, 46-44, with 4:59 left, but he missed the bonus free throw that would have made it a three-point play. Kology rebounded the miss and that led to a Rooney jumper that put the Cougars up, 48-44.
"They played out of their minds," Cougar guard Mac Bredahl said. "Chris played great defense on Monaghan, one of the best shooters in the state, in my opinion. Kyle came in off the bench and gave everyone a good blow. It felt good to see someone step up like that and it's good for Kyle."
In the Jan. 13 meeting between the two schools, a 69-62 win by Morristown-Beard, Monaghan had scored 23 points, including five 3-pointers. With Conlin guarding him Saturday, Monaghan had five points and no 3-pointers in the championship game.
"That was the key I thought," Chatham coach Todd Ervin said. "Monaghan didn't really hurt us. Chris played him really well. We didn't want to double him. We knew Monaghan hurt us in the first game. We wore them out. Their shots in the second half started to hit the front rim."
Conlin led Chatham with six assists, to go with two rebounds and a steal. His only two points were the game-clinching free throws with a second left.
"That was my one job (to guard Monaghan) and I just focused on that," Conlin said. "That was all Kology on that last play. He poked the ball and I just caught it. That was all Kyle. I saw the ball and thought 'Game over.' "
Kyle Kology pokes the ball away from Brian Monaghan of Morristown-Beard and Chris Conlin secures the ball before he is fouled with one second left