RANDOLPH, NJ - The extra incentive to repeat as Morris County Tournament Champions was laid out on paper for the Chatham boys basketball team. All the Cougars had to do was avenge losses to Delbarton, Randolph and Morristown-Beard from the regular season and the trophy would be theirs again.
"It was kind of a revenge tour, we had to beat Randolph (semifinals), who we lost to, and Mo-Beard," Graham LeMon, Chatham senior, said. "So it was like getting revenge on them and it feels much better."
The 6-6 LeMon, who nursed a swollen ankle leading up to the MCT final, scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in powering the Cougars to the 60-55 win over top-seeded Morristown-Beard that earned them their second straight MCT crown and fourth overall Saturday at the County College of Morris. LeMon was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
"The past couple weeks, we've been jelling so much," LeMon said. "The ball has been moving without a care. We just pass it to whoever is open. It's so much better than early in the season."
Chatham (18-6) had lost to Delbarton twice in the regular season, and once each to Randolph and Morristown-Beard before topping all three in the MCT.
"Every team since the quarters we played was a team we lost to; we lost to Delbarton twice," Chatham guard Mac Bredahl said. "We don't care who we're playing. We just want to win the game and be the best team in the county."
Chatham counted on LeMon, who had scored a career-best 26 points in the first meeting with Mo-Beard, to carry the offensive load for most of the game. But Chatham managed to get conributions from everyone on the court to pull the game out. The Cougars out-rebounded Morristown-Beard, 31-14, led by LeMon with 11 and Kyle Kology with eight.
"This team is unbelievable," Chatham coach Todd Ervin said. "We didn't play that good tonight. We didn't shoot the ball well, we didn't shoot threes well. I thought we defended lousy in the first half, so, and again Jack (Rooney) and Mac stepped up and hit two big 3-pointers even when they weren't shooting the ball that well. Overall the team has been unbelievable. A great bunch of kids. I'm really proud of the way they performed."
Raphael Castillo's three-point play had given Morristown-Beard (23-4) a 37-32 lead with 4:23 left in the third before Chatham closed out the quarter with a 9-4 surge that tied the game at 41-41 heading into the fourth quarter.
Mac Bredahl scores on this reverse layup during late run in the third quarter for Chatham
Bredahl contributed to the third-quarter run by dropping in a running bank shot and John Burkard's basket off a pass from Ryan Doherty made it 41-41 with 1:09 left in the third.
Bredahl opened the fourth quarter with his one 3-pointer in the game to make it 44-41 for the Cougars.
After Justin Rodriguez hit a 3-pointer for the Crimson to make it 44-44, LeMon converted a pass from Doherty as he was fouled. LeMon missed the bonus free throw, but Kology came down with the rebound, leading to a possession that ended with Rooney coming off a screen to hit a foul-line jumper that handed the Cougars a 48-44 lead with 3:56 showing.
"In the beginning of the game, I bricked a couple," Rooney said. "We went back to Graham inside and he opens everything up for us. Me and Mac have the confidence to keep shooting, especially in the fourth quarter."
Rooney opened the third quarter with this 3-pointer and then hit another late in the fourth quarter
Rooney's 3-pointer from the left wing made it 51-46 for Chatham with 2:06 left before LeMon's 3-point play off a pass from Burkard put it at 54-50 for the Cougars with 57 seconds to go.
Rooney, who finished with 16 points, sank both ends of a one-and-one situation with 33 seconds left to push the Chatham lead to 57-50. Justin Rodriguez's 3-pointer with 7.4 seconds left for Mo-Beard cut the deficit to 57-55.
But Rooney added another foul shot with 6.3 ticks left and Kology poked the ball away from Crimson guard Brian Monaghan and Chris Conlin wound up with the loose ball and was fouled with one second to go. Conlin sank both free throws to seal it.
MCT NOTES: It was the fourth MCT title for Chatham in the 48-year history of the county tournament. Todd Ervin has coached all four championship teams for Chatham won in 2007, 2012, 2016 and 2017 ... In addition to LeMon being named the MVP, guards Bredahl and Rooney represented Chatham on the MCT all-tournament team. Morristown-Beard players on the all-tourney team were Monaghan, Raphael Castillo and Justin Rodriguez ... Monaghan, who hit five 3-pointers and scored 23 points in the 69-62 victory for the Crimson on Jan. 13 was limited to five points and no 3-pointers by Chatham junior Chris Conlin, who led Chatham with six assists.