By Jerry Del Priore
After a tough 49-47 defeat to Pope John XXIII on Thursday, 14-seed Chatham boys basketball rectified its poor play with a complete team 68-46 winning effort over No. 19 Morris Knolls in the preliminary round of the 2019 Morris County Hoops Tournament Saturday night at home.
Junior E.J. Leskauskas led the Cougar charge with 19 points, while senior Ryan Doherty contributed 17. Juniors Luke Fekete and Andrew Bergman chipped in with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Knowing Chatham needed a well-rounded team effort, Leskauskas, who was active in the paint and in the rebounding department, rose to the occasion.
“It felt it good today (to get the win),” Leskauskas said. “I knew I had to step up a little more and crash the boards.”
When asked about his 19-point scoring output, he replied joyfully: “It was a big day.”
The Cougars (6-12) held an early 5-4 advantage, but the Golden Eagles (3-12) nailed four straight threes to pull ahead, 16-10, in the first period.
Morris Knolls was able to keep Chatham at bay in the second quarter, going into the half with a 28-23 lead, despite Leskauskas’ 13 points.
But the Cougars, three-time reigning MCT Champs, caught fire, outscoring the Golden Eagles, 23-4, in the third period for a 46-32 advantage.
Bergman opened the fourth-quarter scoring with a basket and Fekete dropped in a two-point shot as well as a trey for a 16-point lead with four minutes to go in the tilt.
At that point, Morris Knolls failed to mount a comeback, as Chatham, who had inserted a few backups into the contest, won going away.
The Golden Eagles sank 10 three-pointers in the contest, including six by senior Dan Byrnes, who drained five in the first half and scored a game-best 22 points.
The Cougars return to action Monday night as it travels to Sparta for a 7:00 p.m. affair. Chatham will play host No.3 Mountain Lakes Saturday at 1:00 p.m. in the first round of the MCT. The Cougars lost an overtime contest to Mountain Lakes back on Dec. 22.