Top-Seeded Chatham Lady Cougars Hold on Late to Edge Warren Hills 52-48 in Semi-Finals

The top-seeded Lady Cougars upset Warren Hills in the semi-finals. Credits: Ron Frary
The top-seeded Lady Cougars upset Warren Hills in the semi-finals. Credits: Ron Frary
The top-seeded Lady Cougars upset Warren Hills in the semi-finals. Credits: Ron Frary
CHATHAM, NJ – Senior guard Amanda Berntsen finished with 25 points and helped the Chatham Lady Cougars build a 13 point lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but Warren Hills came back to tie the game twice late before the home team pulled away in the waning minutes in a 52-48 win in the NJSIAA North 2, Group 3 sectional semi-finals on Friday night at Chatham High School.
In a contest that Chatham led the whole way through, Warren Hills fought back by putting together a 17-4 run midway through the final quarter to tie the score at 42 a piece with 3:40 remaining.
Chatham center Lauren Winschuh then hit from underneath off a nice pass from forward Grace Conroy, who finished with a season high 14 points, to bump the lead back up to two.
However, after Warren Hills’ Nikki Schott was fouled, she made both of her ensuing free throws with just over three minutes left to once again tie the score.

“We obviously knew they were a good team. They beat the four and five seed in our sectional bracket so they’re a talented team,” Chatham Head Coach Joe Gaba said of Warren Hills. “We missed a few shots in the second half and they made theirs.  It was close at the end, but we were able to pull it out,” he added.
The next two baskets for Chatham were perhaps the most important in their entire season thus far and they were both created by Berntsen.
With the score tied at 44-44, she began to drive to the basket and then fired a nice no look pass to Conroy who finished strong underneath to help Chatham regain the advantage.
Then, after a Warren Hills backcourt violation, Berntsen lost the ball near midcourt, but fought to get it back and then once again found Conroy on another nice look underneath for the bucket. 
Conroy was also fouled on the play and made the free throw as Chatham held a five point lead with 1:54 left.
“That was the play of the game as far as I’m concerned.  Amanda wasn’t selfish at all.  For her to make that pass and for Grace to have the awareness to catch and shoot it could have very well saved our season,” Coach Gaba commented.
Erica Swinton, who led Warren Hills with 20 points, hit on a layup to bring her team to within three at 49-46 with 1:41 to go and then Berntsen finished the game with some clutch free throw shooting to preserve the victory for Chatham.
She hit two to give Chatham a five point lead with 30 seconds left and then hit one more with 5.1 seconds remaining to put her team up by four.  She finished the game going an astounding 11 of 13 from the line.
“I try not to think about the pressure and the situation.  I just think about other things to calm myself,” Berntsen said of her clinching foul shots at the end.  “We really came through at the end and that’s all the matters.  We’re all excited about that and that we get to move on,” she added.
With the win, Chatham advances to the North 2, Group 3 finals for the second time in three years.  They will play a very tough Morris County opponent in second seeded
West Morris who defeated Cranford 34-32 in the other sectional semifinal game on Friday night.
That game will take place on Tuesday, March 6th at 7 p.m. at Chatham High School.
The start of the game saw Chatham get their offense rolling with Berntsen and Conroy doing all the scoring in the first quarter.  They had 16 and four points respectively as Chatham led 20-9 after one.
Warren Hills began to cut into the Chatham lead in the second, namely due to strong inside work by Schoot.  Chatham led 26-19 with 3:17 left until halftime.
Sam Kennedy hit a three ball for Chatham with a little over two minutes left until halftime and Berntsen scored the last four points of the second quarter as they had a 33-22 lead at the break.
In a low scoring third quarter that saw both teams combine for just 12 points, guard Kendall Davies led the way with three for Chatham.  They were up 38-29 heading into the final quarter of play.

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