CHATHAM, NJ - The Roxbury girls basketball team was celebrating in the first half against Chatham on Saturday night.
The Lady Cougars are starting to get used to being the top seed in the Morris County Tournament and Roxbury, the 16th seed, was just happy to be in the game.
For about 2 1/2 quarters, Chatham could not put distance between themselves and the Gaels.
But finally in the third quarter the Cougars showed why they are the top seed by putting it all together and driving by Roxbury, 57-37, in the second round of the Morris County Tournament at home. Chatham raised its record to 17-1 for the 2011-12 season.
"I think they were just excited about being in the game," said Chatham's Grace Conroy, who added about the second half: "We were much more calmed down and not as frazzled."
The Cougars were able to get a little room just before halftime with a three-point basket from Samantha Kennedy to give Chatham a 29-21 lead heading into intermission.
Still, it was too close for comfort and the Cougars came out in the third quarter and pulled away.
With the victory over the Gaels, Chatham will face a tough foe in the quarterfinals, eighth-seeded Pequannock. The Panthers defeated ninth-seeded Mountain Lakes, 50-36, in the second round. Chatham dropped Pequannock, 49-47, in a hard fought game on Jan. 3 on the road.
"It's always a tough game with them so we know that we have to bring our confidence with us," said Chatham guard Kendall Davies.
Against Roxbury, the Cougars top scorer, Amanda Berntsen, had a slightly off night with 16 points, below her average of 22 points a game as Roxbury concentrated on stopping the senior.
Even with her relative off night, Berntsen still led Chatham in scoring.
But it was the contributions of Davies and Conroy that helped put some distance between themselves and the Gaels. Davies chipped in 15 points and Conroy added nine points.
Davies received all her points from beyond the three-point arc with five including three in the second quarter.
"We definitely have been shooting a lot in practice, but we don't emphasize it," said Davies about three-point shooting. She added that she gets help from her mother, Alexis, who works with her on Sunday nights when they go together shooting at the Chatham Municipal Building.
And it was Conroy who helped put some elbow room between the two teams in the third quarter. Conroy scored six straight points for the Cougars in the third as part of 15-0 run to end the quarter as Chatham grabbed a 44-24 lead heading into the final period.
Also in the second half the Cougars defense put a hold on Roxbury's top scorer, Taylor Kornmann, who was limited to six of her game-high 19 points in the second half.
Chatham will definitely be tested on Saturday when they take on Pequannock as the Lady Cougars continue their drive to win the program’s first Morris County championship.
Chatham girls basketball schedule
(Games at 7 p.m. unless noted)
Feb. 7: Mendham
Feb. 9: Madison
Feb. 11: Pequannock at Morris Knolls, TBD
Feb. 13: at Morris Catholic
Feb. 15: St. Elizabeth
Feb. 21: Mountain Lakes