For awhile, Chatham kept up with Teaneck, the Group III runner-up to Neptune in 2011.
Teaneck pulled in front to stay courtesy of a 20-6 run in the 2:40 before halftime and went on to gain an 82-60 win over the Cougars on Thursday, March 8 at Ramapo High School.
"I wanted this senior group to go out on our terms," Chatham coach Joe Gaba said. "We're a transition team and we have been for 15 years. We could've slowed it down and worked the ball. Teaneck is good at deflections and steals. I would rather have missed shots instead of overworking the ball and have it lead to a steal at the other end.
"We competed. We didn't back down."
After the break, the Highwaywomen continued to build on their lead with an 11-point run. Five different players scored in the burst which pushed Teaneck's advantage to 17 points, 56-39.
"Teaneck is just really, really quick and their post play is strong," Cougars forward Lauren Winschuh said. "We tried to box them out."
Sophomore Kayla Gibbs posed problems for Chatham (27-4) throughout. The 6-foot center thrived on putbacks and turned in a 26-point effort.
"I had to do what I had to do," Gibbs said. "I played my game to the best of my ability."
Gibbs scored six points in each of the first three quarters then capped her finest game thus far with an eight-point fourth period.
"She was tough," Winschuh said of Gibbs. "I could get in boxout position but I couldn't get her away from the basket. (Gibbs) is big and strong. She didn't budge."
Amanda Berntsen, the Cougars' difficult-to-stop senior guard, likewise, earned kind words from Gibbs. Berntsen accumulated 31 points, 20 in the opening half, and played with an abundance of energy. She pushed her career points total to 1,964.
"(Berntsen) was really good," Gibbs said. "She could run with us. She played just like us. She worked. She wanted it. You couldn't take her for granted."
The first period, as uptempo as it gets, was tight with Teaneck going up by two, 22-20. Rebecca Sparks, one of five Highwaywomen in double figures with 12 points, had seven. Berntsen had 13 for Chatham, including two 3-pointers.
Sparks pumped in a 3-pointer to end the first-period scoring then opened the second quarter with another basket from outside the arc to boost Teaneck's lead to 25-20. Chatham reeled off 13 unanswered points and assumed a 33-25 advantage 2:36 into the quarter. The Cougars had three 3-pointers in that stretch, two by Kendall Davies.
The 20-6 run ensued, leaving Chatham trailing by 14 points, 45-39.
"Teaneck is a great team," Berntsen said. "We went in knowing they'd run. We gave them a game. It was our maximum effort."
Winschuh, who will attend Villanova University and likely play club or intramural basketball, was glad her final high school game, as well as her career, were so memorable.
"It's been a fun season, the most fun I've had," Winschuh said. "Today's game was intense. We didn't give up. We just kept playing basketball."
Deja Gabbidon (17 points), Monique Cheek (12) and Jakelle Gilchrist-King (11) were Teaneck's other double-figures scorers.
"This year has been amazing," Berntsen said. "I shared it with a great group of girls. I'll never forget them. Ever."