Chatham Girls’ Head Coach Joe Gaba said being off the hardwood for three consecutive days, due to Covid-19, would leave the team with a little court rust.
However, Chatham was able to shed in court rust and use its guard play and solid defense to blow past Oak Knoll, 54-27, as junior Riley Allen scored a game-best 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while freshman Ella Kreuzer followed with 13 Monday night in the round-robin Cougar Classic at Chatham High School.
“We’ve been off for three straight days, so we knew that the first half was going to be interesting, to say the least,” Gaba said. “We were definitely a little sloppy with the ball. I think we got a lot of good stops in the first half. We only gave up 18 points, but we just never rewarded ourselves, because we come back down and turn the ball right back over.”
However, Gaba and the Cougars (2-1) were able to able to go back to the drawing board at half time and rectify what was troubling them.
“We just talked about continuing to get the stops and clean it up in the front court,” he said. “We definitely cleaned it up, for sure.”
In fact, Chatham went on a 23-0 run, starting midway through the third quarter before the Royals sank a three-pointer with under a minute left in the tilt. Remarkably, the Cougars limited Oak Knoll to a mere nine points in the second half.
Being a young squad, Gaba feels his girls are a work in progress and needs the practice time in order play at optimal levels, not like years prior.
“We’re going to go through growing pains of bouts of turning the ball over, some defensive miscues,” Gaba explained. “We’re not a team that can go of having three days off and come in expect to play a clean game right off the bat.
“If this was a couple of years ago, when Maddie (Hartnett) was a junior or senior, we probably could have gotten away with it,” he continued. “This team needs the repetition and review of what we do in practice before it translates into the game.”
Milan Jones led the Royals with nine points.
The Cougars will face Northern Highlands on Thursday at 6 pm. Oak Knoll will play Old Tappan on Thursday at 4 pm.
— Jerry Del Priore