One more victory in Union Catholic’s best season in more than a decade will include another coaching milestone by one of Union County’s most respected teachers of the game.
Kathy Matthews is one victory shy of becoming just the fourth girls’ basketball coach in New Jersey to attain 700 wins.
Union Catholic’s first opportunity to get Coach Matthews win No. 700 will come Wednesday, Feb. 22 at home at 4 p.m. vs. Middlesex County foe South Plainfield.
The winningest girls’ basketball coaches in New Jersey with their records as of Tuesday include Jeff Jasper of Pascack Valley (982-188), Sue Liddy of Holy Angels (727-278), Vanessa Watson of Shabazz (720-107 – retired) and Matthews (699-313).
The Vikings are enjoying their best season since reaching the Union County Tournament championship game for a fifth straight year in 2005.
Union Catholic enters Wednesday’s game with an overall record of 18-5 which has seen the Vikings win 11 of their last 12, including a season-high 10-game winning streak.
South Plainfield is 11-13 and on Tuesday lost at home to South River 65-63.
Union Catholic finished 10-2 and in second place in the Union County Conference’s Valley Division and was the only team to beat champion Oak Knoll, with the two splitting division matchups.
Matthews, the only girls’ basketball coach at Union Catholic, is in her 41st season at UC, a tenure that began with the 1976-1977 campaign.
Liddy reached 700 wins at Holy Angels in January of 2016, also in her 41st season at the helm.
Matthews has guided Union Catholic to 12 conference titles, a record eight Union County Tournament championships, five sectional crowns, three state titles and had the Vikings playing in the first-ever Tournament of Champions championship game after they ousted top-seeded Bloomfield 62-46 in the 1989 semifinals at Monmouth College.
Union Catholic finished No. 2 in the state in 1989 behind TOC winner Hoffman, the Group 1 state champ.
From Olympian Kris Kirchner to Gatorade National Players of the Year Kris Durham and Jess Ballweg to standout 1989 senior Cheryl Cop who went on to star at Rutgers (Cop is in the Rutgers Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame) to her star players of this year which include senior Andrya Robinson, senior Taylor Gardner and junior Izzy DiDario, Union Catholic has maintained an excellence in the sport – despite not winning any titles recently – that few programs can claim.
The Vikings have averaged 17 wins a season for more than four decades.
Win No. 600 came on Feb. 19, 2008 – a weekday in Summit when Union Catholic concluded its 2007-2008 campaign with a 31-29 win at Oak Knoll. Union Catholic finished 10-10 that season.
Win No. 500 came during the same month that Union Catholic won its last UCT title – February of 2001.
A senior member of that 2000-2001 squad was Jackie Huber, who now as Jackie Dyer is completing her 10th season as the head coach at Cranford. Dyer has guided Cranford to North 2, Group 3 sectional championships in 2010 and 2013 and to the UCT championship in 2016. She also coached Cranford’s junior varsity team to the 2006 JV UCT title.
Union Catholic’s last two wins have come over Cranford, including a thrilling 55-54 double overtime Feb. 14 UCT first round victory at Cranford. Union Catholic then came from behind to top the Cougars again, this time by a 51-45 count at home in Monday’s conference-crossover in Scotch Plains.
Union Catholic’s five losses include at Oak Knoll and at Dayton in Valley Division play – the Vikings then beat both at home the second time around – at home to Oak Knoll in holiday tournament action, at Kent Place in a conference-crossover and to Roselle Catholic in a UCT quarterfinal at Johnson.
Union Catholic is also scheduled to play at Bernards Saturday before competing in the Non-Public, South A playoffs next week. There, the ninth-seeded Vikings will be on the road in a first round game at eighth-seeded Donovan Catholic on Tuesday, Feb. 28.
WINNINGEST GIRLS’ BASKETBALL COACHES IN NEW JERSEY
(records as of Tuesday):
Jeff Jasper, Pascack Valley (982-188)
Sue Liddy, Holy Angels (727-278)
Vanessa Watson, Shabazz (720-107 – retired)
Kathy Matthews, Union Catholic (699-313)
ONLY GIRLS’ BASKETBALL COACHES
IN STATE HISTORY TO COACH 1,000 GAMES:
Jeff Jasper, Pascack Valley
Sue Liddy, Holy Angels
Kathy Matthews, Union Catholic
Dave Troiano, Wildwood
Troiano reached 1,000 games last week, with his record after a Feb. 13
loss at home to Ocean City by a 50-33 score reading at 676-324.