RANDOLPH, NJ - When halftime arrived at the Morris County Tournament semifinals on Friday night, the Chatham girls basketball team had scored a total of nine points and its leading scorer, Maddie Hartnett, was held to a single free throw.
That was no big deal for the Cougars, who had held their opponent, Randolph, to just eight points over that same span. When it comes down to defensive battles and tight spots, bet on this Chatham team to hold the hammer down the stretch.
"I told them that I didn't care if we win, 13-12, just get one more than them," Chatham coach Joe Gaba said. "We were playing good D, they were playing good D. Shots are always hard to come by in these games. I just told them to stay the course."
Hartnett finally hit her stride in the second half, scoring 13 of her game-high 14 points, including seven in the fourth quarter, as No. 2 seed Chatham earned its third straight trip to the Morris County Tournament final with a 40-28 win over No. 3 Randolph, with support from Cougar Nation at the County College of Morris.
Chatham (19-4) takes on top-seeded and undefeated Montville (22-0), the No. 10 ranked team in the state by NJ.com, 7 p.m. Friday at CCM to decide the championship of the 44th annual Morris County Tournament.
Maddie Hartnett, Emma Frohnapfel and Shannon Donohoe talk about the win
According to Gaba, the key for the Cougars in the second half was that they were able to get out in transition and use the big court at CCM to their advantage.
"Finally, we got a little bit of transition offense going and we found Maddie and she hit a three," Gaba said. "She went to the basket twice and went to the line. This court is conducive to running a transition offense."
Hartnett's 3-pointer with 4:46 left in the third quarter staked Chatham to a 14-10 lead and freshman Meja Jaegerskog followed by sinking two free throws. The Cougars held a 19-17 edge heading into the fourth quarter when they put the game away with a 21-11 surge.
Sara Bona's basket to start the fourth quarter tied it at 19-19 for Randolph (20-3) before Chatham took over. Senior guard Hartnett hit both ends of a one-and-one situation before passing the ball forward to Carly Frohnapfel, who finished with a strong move to the basket (see below).
Senior forward Shannon Donohoe then kicked the ball out to senior Emma Frohnapfel, who drained a huge 3-pointer (see below) to give the Cougars a 26-19 advantage with 5:16 left.
"I literally just told her in there that was as big of a three that's been hit in our semifinal appearances that we've ever had," Gaba said.
Hartnett then drove the lane and dished to Donohoe for the layup that made it a 28-20 lead with 3:18 to go (see below).
Hartnett then received a pass from Tess Ford and drained a 3-pointer that made it 33-23 with 1:58 showing (see below).
Hartnett missed all seven of the shots she attempted from the floor in the first half, but never doubted that the game would turn in her favor.
"My teammates don't let me get down," Hartnett said. "They don't let me get inside my own head."
Chatham hit 11 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter, including two free throws with 2:17 left by Jaegerskog, both ends of a one-and-one by Carly Frohnapfel at the 1:23 mark and two fouls by Harnett with 54 ticks left.
COUGAR NOTES: Chatham will be making its third straight trip to the Morris County Tournament final. The Cougars won the school's first-ever MCT in 2018 and lost on a buzzer-beater to Morristown-Beard in 2019. This marks the sixth time coach Joe Gaba's Chatham team has reached the county final ... Chatham will meet top-seeded Montville in the final. The Cougars will face the Mustangs for the third time this year, having lost at Montville 38-33 on Jan. 8 and 41-35 at CHS on Feb. 6 ... Montville has never won the MCT crown and last reached the title game in 1977 ... The Cougars sank 11 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter of their semifinal win over Randolph. Chatham made just eight shots from the floor in the game, which included two 3-pointers by Hartnett and one apiece by Tess Ford and Emma Frohnapfel ... Overall the Cougars hit 20 of 27 free throws, including 18 of the final 20 they attempted. Harnett made 8 of 10 from the line, Carly Froh was 5 for 8, Meja Jaegerskog was 4-for-4 and Tess Ford made 3 of 4 ... Randolph made four of 11 free-throw attempts ... Shannon Donohoe pulled down 11 rebounds for Chatham.