SUMMIT, NJ - Down 17 points early in the fourth quarter, the Summit High School Girls Varsity Basketball Team staged a furious comeback, outscoring Chatham 23-8, but the surge was not enough, and the Cougars edged the Hilltoppers 51-47 at Chatham High School.
Cassandra Falone drilled five three's as part of her game-high 24 points for Chatham, three of which came in the first half when the Cougars amassed their lead. Cassidy O'Malley had 19 points, and Jenny Martino added 16 for Summit, who is 4-4 on the season.
Chatham used a combination of red-hot shooting from the outside, led by Falone, and inside rebounding dominance, spearheaded by Veronica Kelly, to build a comfortable lead in the first half.
The Cougars led 16-10 after the first quarter, and 30-18 at the half. After the break, the teams played a defensive-dominated third quarter, which ended with Chatham upping their lead to 38-24.
The lead ballooned to 41-24 at the start of the fourth, before Summit began their push. Buckling down on the defensive end to finally get some key stops, and rebounding with better technique and energy, the Hilltoppers began to chip away at the lead. Still, Chatham was up double digits with two minutes to go, but then the rally got serious in a hurry.
Martino hit back-to-back three's from the left corner -- at the 30-second and 16-second marks, respectively -- and the lead was just two at 49-47. Pressing and trapping aggressively on the subsequent inbounds play, Summit yielded a breakaway lay-up off a scramble that sealed the result for the Cougars.
Afterwards, an upbeat Summit Head Coach Tom Kenny praised his team's determination and drive to get back in the game. "I couldn't be more proud of my team," he said. "Down 17 in the fourth quarter we could have packed in in, but we didn't. That is Chatham's best offensive game of the year, and I think -- outside of our win against Governor Livingston -- that was our best game of the year. We handled their pressure well and, even though they made a very high percentage of their shots, we were right there defensively."
Summit returns home to face Scotch Plains-Fanwood January 13 and Westfield January 15. Both games tip-off at 7 p.m.