It was a pure slugfest, two equally matched girls’ teams– top-seeded Chatham versus No. 2 Randolph–engaging in four quarters of fierce battle in the NJSIAA Tournament, North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 final for supremacy.
When the dust settled, the Cougars (19-10) emerged victorious, 39-35, over the Rams (20-9) Monday night at home. But Head Coach Joe Gaba said it was not easy, as Chatham bent but did not snap under the intense championship pressure during crunch time.
“We kind of got a little complacent, we got a little messy with things, we got conservative,” Gaba said. “And they started to make their run back, and then we had two huge defensive miscues. We lost the three-point shooter in transition, and then we had a mix up on one of our screens and in communicating, they found the girl underneath the basket.”
Randloph dribbled out to 14-8 advantage. But the Cougars were able to cut the deficit to 20-16 at the half.
But Chatham knotted the contest at 22 when senior Caryl Frohnapfel scored a bucket. Sophomore Addison Barrett followed by sinking two free throws to give the Cougars the lead at 24-22 with 5:40 to go in the third period.
From there, Chatham went on a 14-3 run to swell their margin to 38-25 with 5.55 remaining in the affair.
Rams junior Sydney Jenisch drilled a three-pointer to start a 10-0 run that pulled the Rams to 38-35 with around a minute to play.
However, Sydney Jenisch missed a free throw with 42.1 left in the tilt. The Cougars managed to thwart Randoph’s offense the rest of the way, and freshman Ella Kreuzer, admittedly filled with nerves, hit one of two from the charity stripe to make it a four-point advantage with 10.8 ticks on the clock.
“It was very scary,” Kreuzer recollected, “but I (thought to myself) to shut out the crowd and pretended that no one was there, and I’ll be good.”
Gaba has given credit to his ever-improving freshmen’s fortitude and coming-of -age mentality to not only his underclassmen, but the entire young squad.
“Our freshmen have grown up,” Chatham’s longtime coach said. “We have matured over the course of the season (as a team), but a lot over the last month.”
This was the third meeting between both squads, as the Cougars won the first matchup at the beginning of the campaign, and the Rams took the second one in late January.
Junior Riley Allen drained a team-best 11 points while Kreuzer contributed 10 in the win. Senior Caryl Frohnapfel and Barrett added eight and six points, respectively.
Junior Madison Jenisch scored a game-high 13 points for Randolph.
Chatham faces Sparta in the Group 3 semifinals on Wednesday at Ramapo High School, per sources.
— Jerry Del Priore
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