CHATHAM, NJ - Chris Conlin and Ryan Doherty have dubbed themselves the "Splash Brothers" of the Chatham boys basketball team because of their ability to hit a 3-point shot.
On Saturday night, the two led a splash party as Chatham connected on 10 3-pointers to defeat Orange, 52-43, in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 state tournament semifinals before a sold out gym at Chatham High.
"The Splash Brothers had six threes tonight," Doherty said. "It's just great playing with Chris out there. In practice we always do shooting competitions with all the guards and everyone counts how many shots they've made, but we count ours together as the 'Splash Brothers.' "
The Cougars (21-6) burned the Tornadoes with their long-range shooting with 10 of the 15 baskets from the floor made by Chatham being 3-pointers. Conlin led the way by sinking four 3-pointers - all in the second half. Doherty, Mac Bredahl and Jack Rooney nailed two 3-pointers apiece.
No. 2 seed Chatham has now advanced to the state sectional final for the third straight year and will meet fifth-seeded Barringer (18-10), 7 p.m Monday in Chatham for the championship. Barringer upended top-seeded Rahway, 70-68, in its semifinal.
The "Splash Brothers" - Chris Conlin and Ryan Doherty - hit six of Chatham's 10 3-pointers in the game
Orange (20-6) opened to an 8-5 lead with about three minutes to go in the first quarter before Rooney hit a 3-pointer and Doherty followed a minute later with a 3-pointer of his own.
Orange took a 12-11 edge into the second quarter, but Bredahl (12 points) got hot, hitting a 3-pointer from the right corner and then another from the right wing in a span of 26 seconds. Doherty's trey from the top of the key preceded two foul shots by Bredahl that handed the Cougars a 24-17 advantage at the break.
"They were really aggressive pushing the ball, the quickest team we played all year," Bredahl said. "They kind of got tired at the end, as we did. (Conlin) was lights out, he was making everything. He does that in practice, it doesn't surprise us."
Conlin's performance had to be a little surprising to Orange, which concentrated on surrounding senior forward Graham LeMon and dogging guards Rooney and Bredahl.
In the third quarter, Rooney's 3-pointer, Burkard's follow of Conlin's miss and Conlin's 3-pointer fueled an 8-2 burst that staked the Cougars to a 34-27 lead.
John Burkard scores this basket in the third quarter to key an 8-2 burst for Chaham
Conlin hit two straight 3-pointers from the same spot on the right wing to open the scoring in the fourth quarter and push Chatham in front, 40-31.
"Last year in JV games he air-balled threes," Rooney said of Conlin. "I don't know what he did in the offseason, but somehow he's splashing threes."
Rooney's drive for a reverse layup and Doherty's running floater on successive trips down the court gave the Cougars a 46-38 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
The shot that put the dagger in any Orange comeback hopes was Conlin's fourth 3-pointer of the game, a shot from the left corner that made it 51-41 with 2:12 to go.
"I don't usually shoot that much," Conlin said. "The joke in the huddle is that they say I want the rock. I'm not the best offensively as they say. It's ironic, that's what it is."
With LeMon limited to four points because of all the extra defensive pressure, the Cougars were happy to see Conlin get to his favorite spots on the court and fire away.
"We needed it from someone and he made the shots," Chatham coach Todd Ervin said. "Conlin played great. Fortunately, they got a little tired in the second half and we had some room to do things."
COUGAR NOTES: Junior guard Jack Rooney now has 993 career points, which puts him seven points away from becoming the sixth boys basketball player at Chatham High to reach 1,000 points.
"My mentality is that if we win, I'll get it," Rooney said. "I'm not trying to get it all in one play."
Chatham has advanced to the state sectional championship game for the third straight year and is trying to win its first title since 2007. Two years ago, Chatham lost at Colonia in the sectional final and last year Warren won in two overtime periods in Chatham.
"Third straight year really feels great," Rooney said. "I think it will feel a lot better if we can get our first W."
Tickets for the sectional final vs. Barringer set for 7 p.m., Monday, go on sale at 6:45 a.m. the day of the game. There is a limit of two tickets per person.