Chatham boys basketball coach Todd Ervin has been waiting patiently to pick up the next two victories to reach the 500th career win mark at the school.
But it has been challenging since Ervin reached his 498th career victory on Feb. 6. The Cougars, who celebrated their senior class of Andrew Bergman, E.J. Leskauskas, Jameson Shi, Jack Arnuk, Sean Barry and Luke Fekete, went down in defeat, 47-41, to Mendham (13-9) on Wednesday night at home.
Not looking ahead to No. 500 just yet, Ervin said that No. 499 is first and foremost in his book.
“They made some shots, and we didn’t make some shots. That’s the way it is,” Ervin said of the defeat.” I am worried about the next one (win). Let’s get that first.”
Playing sans the services of Bergman, who broke his leg, ending his season, and Leskauskas, who is sidelined with a concussion, Chatham (11-11) has struggled. The pair both got injured in a loss to Sparta on February 4th and the Cougars have not been able to rebound ever since, losing five of six games.
Lauding the defense, Ervin said that it’s very difficult to win games when you’re having trouble scoring.
“It was a good effort, we’re just struggling offensively right now,” Ervin said. “We played pretty good defense. There were a couple lapses here and there. But you can’t win when you score 41 points. It’s not going to happen very often.”
Chatham played well in the first half, leading, 25-24, at the break, with guards Cam Rooney and Fekete doing most of the offensive damage, scoring eight and 11 points, respectivley.
But the Minutemen keyed on both players, getting physical in the second half and limiting their production.
However, Ervin said that his talented sophomore, Rooney, in particular, will have to solve that dilemma as he develops.
“They played very physical in the second half,” he explained. “They (other teams) kind of take Cam off his game when they do that. That’s been happing most of the year. He just has to mature and figure out how to play through it. But he’s a very good player for a sophomore.”
Both squads went back and forth in the first few minutes of the third quarter before Mendham took a 31-29 lead with a little over four minutes left in the period.
The Minutemen ended the quarter ahead, 39-35. While the Cougars fought back, cutting the deficit to 41-39 on junior Cam Druhot’s bucket with 2:30 remaining in the contest, that’s as close as they would get. Mendham never relinquished the advantage from there, hitting several fouls shots down the stretch to secure the triumph.
Rooney and Fekete scored 12 points apiece for Chatham.
Senior Jesse Hafemeister torched the Cougars for 21 points.
— Jerry Del Priore