CHATHAM, NJ - It's not like the Chatham boys basketball team was surprised by Hanover Park's full-court press. It was the same swarming plan the Hornets employed on Jan. 6 when the Cougars scored 92 points in a road win at Hanover Park.
And Chatham seemed to be handling the pressure just fine until the final eight minutes of the game on Saturday night when Hanover Park put up 28 points in eliminating the Cougars from the Morris County Tournament, 63-59.
No. 9 seed Hanover Park's reward is a meeting with top-seeded West Morris in the MCT quarterfinal round. Meanwhile, No. 8 seed Chatham (11-8) can ponder how it was outscored 28 to 14 in the final quarter.
For the game, the Hornets were credited with 16 steals. Kyle Junda scored 11 of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter for Hanover Park.
"We made some poor decisions at the end, missed shots and then just gave them too many easy opportunities in a game we should have won," Chatham coach Todd Ervin said. "With the way they play, 10 points doesn't mean much. We just didn't take care o the ball. In the long term, that's what cost us."
The Cougars had taken some momentum into the halftime break by scoring nine points over the final 51 seconds of the second quarter to take a 28-20 lead. James Platek and Jack Casano-Boris hit back-to-back 3-pointers before Luke Fekete was fouled shooting a 3-pointer with half a second left. He sank all three free throws.
Hanover Park opened the second half by scoring the first six points, but Chatham regained its footing behind the inside-outside backcourt duo of Cam Rooney and Jame Platek. Rooney went to the rim and scored twice and also hit a floater in the lane (see below).
Platek drained three 3-pointers in the third quarter including two straight (see below) that closed out the period and staked Chatham to a 45-35 lead.
Despite all that went wrong in the fourth quarter, Chatham nearly held on. Fekete's 3-pointer (see below) made it 48-37 for the Cougars with 6:50 left.
Senior Sean Barry converted a nice pass from Platek (see below) to give Chatham a 53-50 edge with 2:17 showing, and Fekete sank both ends of a one-and-one situation with 1:29 to go for the final Chatham lead of 55-54.
COUGAR NOTES: Chatham did hobble into the game with key injuries. Senior forward Andrew Bergman broke his leg on Tuesday and is scheduled for surgery this week. Senior forward E.J. Leskauskas had his nose broken in the same Tuesday game against Sparta, and returned after missing one game with a mask to protect his nose. In the 92-80 win at Hanover Park on Jan. 6, Bergman had scored 20 points and Leskauskas finished with 13. Leskauskas had four points in the rematch before fouling out with 19 seconds to go ... Chatham coach Todd Ervin stands at 498-256 in his career as the Cougar coach. His fastest route to 500 career wins would be taking road games at Randolph and Delbarton this week ... Cougar guard Cam Rooney made all 11 of his free throws in win over Morristown on Thursday, but did not get to the foul line vs. Hanover Park. He did lead Chatham with 14 points, followed by James Platek, who hit four 3-pointers and ended with 13 points. Luke Fekete scored seven of his 10 points in the final quarter for Chatham. Freshman Ryan Leskauskas scored all eight of his points in the first half for the Cougars.