SPARTA, NJ - Jack Arnuk had set it up to be the hero for the Chatham boys basketball team with a clutch second-half performance in what looked like it was going to be a routine grind-it-out win on the road against Sparta Friday night.
That all changed in the final minute of regulation when Sparta managed to close with a 10-4 run in less than 60 seconds, capped by Aidan Mastandrea's 3-point buzzer-beater (see below) that tied the score and forced an extra session.
But the Cougars didn't fold as E.J. Leskauskas drained a huge 3-point shot in overtime and guards Jack Casano-Boris and Cam Rooney each sank four free throws in the closing seconds to give Chatham its third straight win, 56-49, over the Spartans.
"We didn't do a real good job at the end (of regulation)," Todd Ervin, Chatham coach, said. "We bounced back in overtime. I was happy the way we played in overtime. We didn't let it bother us. There was no lingering effects.
"I told them whatever happened in the past is over with. We had to focus on the overtime. E.J. hit a huge three in overtime that gave us that lead and we just never let it go."
Sparta (3-2) held a 46-45 edge in overtime when Leskauskas drained a 3-pointer (see below) off a pass from Rooney that staked Chatham (4-2) to a 48-46 edge with 1:55 to go in the extra session.
Rooney followed with two free throws that made it 50-46 and Casano-Boris hit two more free throws with 37 seconds to go, making it a 52-47 advantage for the Cougars. The junior guard sank two more fouls with 24 seconds left before Rooney dropped in two more from the line with 18 seconds showing.
Arnuk scored 11 of his team-high 16 points in the second half, while Leskauskas ended with 12 points and Casano-Boris scored 15, eight from the foul line.
Jack Arnuk, E.J. Leskauskas and Jack Casano-Boris talk about the OT win
Down the stretch in the fourth quarter, Arnuk hit six straight free throws in a 6-3 Chatham run that handed the Cougars a 36-29 lead with 2:44 left in the fourth.
"Arnuk played big for us in the second half, especially. Without (Andrew) Bergman," Ervin said. "We needed him. He stepped it up."
Chatham had held for the last shot of the third quarter, which Casano-Boris turned into a 3-pointer from the top of the key (see below) for a 26-19 edge heading into the fourth.
Arnuk hit a shot in the lane in the third quarter (see below) and followed with eight points in the fourth quarter.
COUGAR NOTES: With Andrew Bergman sidelined with a sprained ankle, senior Jack Arnuk got the start in his place and produced a team-high 16 points, 11 in the second half for Chatham ... The two teams scored a combined 45 points through the first three quarters (24 minutes), but scored 57 points together in the fourth quarter and overtime (12 minutes) ... the Cougars hit 25 of 35 free throws with Casano-Boris sinking 8 for 8 and Rooney 6 of 8. Arnuk hit six straight free throws in the fourth quarter, but wound up 8-for-14 from the line ... Aidan Mastandrea led all scorers with 25 points and three 3-pointers for Sparta, which made 14 of 19 foul shots ... Casano Boris fouled out with 19 seconds left in the overtime ... Chatham led, 40-34, with 58 seconds left in the fourth quarter before Sparta closed with a 10-4 run that made it 44-44 heading into OT ... Cougars play at Hanover Park on Monday.