CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham girls basketball coach Joe Gaba has been patiently waiting for freshman Meja Jaegerskog to feel comfortable on the court. The wait appears to be over.
The 6-1 Swedish import showed how comfortable she feels in her basketball shoes on Saturday when she came off the bench to score a career-high 13 points and pull down 11 rebounds in Chatham's 53-28 win over Hanover Park in the first round of the Morris County Tournament.
"Meja had a great game and she had a really good game against Montville and I think she's really starting to get it," Gaba said. "I think it's really hard for a freshman to kind of come in because she's behind everyone. All the returnees coming into the season know what we do, there's not a lot of learning for them. There's a lot of learning in terms of Xs and Os for Meja. It's finally starting to click for her and it's perfect timing as we head into the tournament."
Chatham freshman Meja Jaegerskog talks about the win
Senior Maddie Hartnett hit five 3-pointers and led Chatham (14-4) with 17 points while junior point guard and defensive specialist Tess Ford hit for nine points. But Jaegerskog helps take some pressure off those two with her ability to score inside and hit the boards.
Jaegerskog hit for seven of her points during a 16-2 burst in the second quarter that staked Chatham to a 24-6 lead at the halftime break. She scored her first points off a pass from Shannon Donohoe (see below) and later came up with a big offensive rebound that she turned into a three-point play. Jaegerskog capped the first-half scoring with a steal that she took in for two points.
Hartnett continued to do her thing, hitting the long-range jumper for the Cougars and pushing her 3-point shots made this season to 63. The guard scored the first five points of the game for Chatham (see videos below).
Ford continued to make timely contributions to the offense, hitting a turnaround hook in the second quarter (see below) and a 3-pointer in the third quarter (see below).
Chatham put away the game in the third quarter, pushing its advantage to 39-7 with 2:41 left in the period. Jaegerskog scored off a pass from Ford at the buzzer to give Chatham a 45-15 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
"Obviously, we can play some pretty good D," Gaba said. "We knew we could limit what they were trying to do on offense.
"We just had to make shots. We came off a week where we really didn't make many shots at West Morris (38-32 loss) and we didn't make any clutch shots vs. Montville (41-35 loss), so we needed to come out and hit a couple and start building confidence for the weeks ahead.
COUGAR NOTES: Chatham coach Joe Gaba gave a tip of the hat to his "Scout Team" made up of CHS boys who play intramural basketball - Dean Ciccarelli, Nolan Carney, Peter Schelling, Charles Cuneo and Matt Grosso.
"Yesterday our JV girls were away for a county tournament game and we had only eight at practice," Gaba said. "I asked the girls to find some of our intramural boys to come and be a scout team for us. A lot of Division 1 teams do that at the college level. So these guys came in and they were awesome. I asked them to be quick, long and athletic and make us work on defense. They were really awesome. Those boys helped us prep for today's game. A little piece of this victory has to go to them ... The MCT quarterfinals will be held at Morris Knolls High on Saturday, Feb. 15 and No. 2 seed Chatham faces the host school, No. 10 Morris Knolls (9-10). The Cougars played at Morris Knolls on Jan. 14 and won, 46-25, with Maddie Hartnett hitting seven 3-pointers in her 23-point game. Meja Jaegerskog had 10 points in that matchup.