ORANGE, NJ - If there is one aspect Chatham can usually count on from its boys basketball team is the intensity it brings on the defensive end. Orange had the edge in that department on Monday night.
The Tornadoes eliminated Chatham from the state tournament last season and this time they handed the Cougars their first loss of the young season, 56-49.
"It can only help us down the road," Chatham coach Todd Ervin said. "We don't see good teams like this that often. Hopefully, it prepares us. We need to play good teams like them. We also need to beat them. I thought our effort was good. We just didn't shoot the ball well enough."
Orange went hard to the basket from the opening tip and just 41 seconds into the game the Tornadoes had gone to the line six times and made five. Guard Keshawn Alexander, who led all scorers with 21 points, hit a 3-pointer to give Orange a 14-4 lead. But the Cougars closed the gap when Jack Rooney and Graham Delaney hit back-to-back 3-pointers.
In the second quarter, Stefan Goles scored seven of his 12 points, but he was the only Cougar to score in the period as Orange took a 27-17 lead into halftime.
"They were a very tough team the whole game," Goles said. "They were completely relentless. Part of it was them, how quick they were. Part of it was us needing to be stronger with the ball. Turnovers killed us. That kind of blew the game open.
"We definitely could have used Colin (McKenna, out with a sprained ankle) in there today. We need to get used to the pressure that teams put on. It was a good learning experience. We'd be excited if we got a chance to play them again."
Chatham made it a game in the third quarter, closing it to as few as five points, but never getting any closer. The highlight for the Cougars was an 11-6 run in the third. John Burkard, who ended with 11 points, led the charge with three baskets and two free throws. Delaney, who paced Chatham with 18 points, dropped in a beautiful floater in the lane during the burst.
"We came out lethargic," said Delaney, who nailed three 3-pointers in the game. "We had no energy in the first half. They got a jump on us and that's really what killed us in the end. The second half we played 10 times better. We were making some shots, but we have to learn how to keep our energy up for a full 32-minute game. It's a good lesson. You have to come out and play as hard as you can. We have to play harder and we have to play better.
"I had a little more of an attacking mindset They're up on you all game long, so it's a little easier to get by them if they're up on you like that. Making some of those layups and floaters gave me a little confidence to knock down some shots."
Graham Delaney drains a 3-pointer in second half against Orange in video below