MILLBURN, NJ - Sometimes, four quarters is not enough time to decide the victor in a basketball game; sometimes, a single overtime is not enough either.
It took four overtime periods to decide the victor in the contest between Chatham and Millburn, with junior guard Jack Rooney's 17-foot jumper with three seconds left winning it for the Cougars, 54-53, on Thursday night.
“It’s tough, especially when Millburn has a crowd,” Rooney said. “It was just grit. You don’t want to lose a game going into county semis.”
In the fourth overtime, Millburn (15-6) hit two layups early on to jump ahead, 52-48, but Chatham (16-5) tied it again after a three-point play from Ryan Doherty and a clutch free throw from John Burkard. After Ross Gang was sent to the line and put the Millers up by one, Rooney hit the game-winning shot from the left wing.
Rooney led the way for the Cougars, scoring 20 points and hitting multiple clutch shots in the extera sessions. Senior forward Graham LeMon also played well, contributing 18 points for Chatham
Chatham coach Todd Ervin said after the game that he has “supreme confidence” in Rooney’s ability to remain cool under pressure and hit clutch shots when Chatham needs them.
“We set that up for him, to do whatever he needed to do,” Ervin said. “He really came through for us. Just an unbelievable game. I thought both teams played really well, and it’s a testament that we hung in and were able to pull it out.”
The fourth quarter did not feature a lot of offense, as both teams began to slow the pace of their play down. Clutch free throws and a layup from LeMon helped the Cougars tie the game at 38, and forced the game into overtime.
Both teams significantly slowed down their tempos in overtime, looking to force the opposition to have as little time as possible. Millburn took the lead in the first overtime with under a minute to go, but a floater by Rooney knotted it up at 41. The two sides traded layups in the second overtime, and Millburn barely missed the winning shot with the game tied at 43.
Rooney began to dominate in the third extra session, hitting a deep 3-pointer and a layup. However, when the Cougars scored, the Millers immediately answered, and the game was forced into quadruple overtime with the score tied at 48.
Ervin’s squad had started off strong, getting ahead to a 13-4 lead in the opening quarter. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Millburn cut into Chatham’s momentum, and the first quarter closed with Chatham ahead just 13-10.
The two teams traded blows in the second quarter, as both sides focused on inside shooting. The first half drew to a close with Chatham and Millburn tied at 20. Chatham surged ahead in the third quarter, thanks to tough defense from Burkard.
However, Burkard was called for a technical foul late in the quarter, and momentum was shifted in favor of Millburn. The Millers capitalized on a few Chatham turnovers and jumped ahead 33- 30 at the end of the third quarter.
Chatham, winner of six straight, resumes action on Saturday when face off against Randolph in the semifinals of the Morris County Tournament. It is a rematch of the MCT final of a year ago won by Chatham.