To say Chatham-Madison boys’ basketball rivalry is intense would be a bit of an understatement. Both teams lived up to the hype in the first quarter, playing fast and physical at every turn in front of a packed house.
But the Cougars (14-2) jumped out to a 24-10 lead in the first period, and road that momentum to a 76-40 victory over the Dodgers (12-6) at home Tuesday night. It was Chatham’s 13th consecutive win.
Senior Ryan Leskauskas led Chatham’s offensive attack with 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds and dished out six assists. Senior Tim Platek followed with 15 points and three steals while sophomore Michael MacAniff contributed 10 points and six boards. Senior Danny Morton had eight points and four rebounds and junior Mike Tedesco added five points, seven boards, a block and two thefts.
The Cougars held onto to their 14-point advantage (36-22) at the break. Then, Chatham went ahead 51-35 in the third quarter.
Leskauskas said his shot did not fall the way he had hoped for in the first half, but he eased up as the Cougars built their commanding lead, thusly draining more buckets in the second half.
“Well, obviously, I want to shoot, but I realized in the first half my feet weren’t set. I was fading away (from the basket),” Leskauskas said. “But my teammates were getting me open, and I got right into my rhythm. I kind of relaxed once we built our lead. I was like, “all right, I can set my feet and not rush anything.'”
Leskauskas opened up the fourth period with six points for a 59-38 Chatham lead midway through the quarter. And later connected on back-to-back three-pointers to increase the Cougars’ advantage to 67-38 with 2:38 remaining in the game.
Head coach Todd Ervin said the key to Chatham’s success is balanced scoring, not just one player putting up points.
“Any team we’ve had that has been good, we have scoring across the board,” Ervin explained. “So, we always try to have at least a couple of scorers to go along with Ryan, which we are getting from different people. MacAniff played great today. Timmy Platek and Danny Morton ended up scoring for us, so we need that. In order to win, we got to get a lot of people scoring.”
Sean Mariani paced Madison with 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Cougars host Roxbury in the first round of the Morris County Tournament on Thursday at 7:00 p.m.
— Jerry Del Priore