After getting upset by Paterson Eastside in last year’s Group 4 semifinals and falling a game short of defending their last state championship, the Linden Tigers are back where they want to be.
At the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway during the second Sunday of March.
North 2, Group 4 champion Linden downed North 1, Group 4 champ Hackensack 69-56 March 9 in the Group 4 semifinal played at the Dunn Sport Center in Elizabeth. It was at that gym where Linden’s 2014-2015 season ended a year ago.
For the third time in four years Linden will be appearing in the Group 4 state championship game, which is scheduled to be played at the RAC March 13 at noon – the first of four state championship games there that day.
It will also be the second time in four years that the matchup is Linden against South Jersey, Group 4 champion Atlantic City. Atlantic City downed Central Jersey, Group 4 champ Colts Neck 55-50 at Egg Harbor March 9 to advance to the final.
Atlantic City defeated Linden 60-54 in overtime in the 2013 final at the RAC. In the 2000 final also at the RAC, Linden defeated Atlantic City 64-39 for its first group state championship.
In the win against Hackensack, senior forward William Phelps paced all scorers for Linden with 23 points. Sophomore guard Tavon Jones added 21.
Linden won the first three quarters, taking a 17-point lead into the fourth.
Linden is now 22-5 and winners of five straight.
Linden is now also 8-4 in North 2, Group 4 finals under head coach Phil Colicchio, now in his 19th season at the helm of the Tigers. The Tigers have won the last four, becoming only the second school to achieve a four-peat in N2, G4 and the first since Elizabeth won five straight titles from 1987-1991.
Linden won the section in 2000, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Linden lost in the final in 1999 to Union, 2003 to Elizabeth, 2005 to Bridgewater-Raritan and 2008 to Piscataway.
LINDEN IN GROUP 4 STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
UNDER HEAD COACH PHIL COLICCHIO (4-1):
2014: Linden 66, Trenton 53
2013: Atlantic City 60, Linden 54 (OT)
2007: Linden 63, South Brunswick 54
2006: Linden 64, Atlantic City 39
2000: Linden def. Bridgewater-Raritan
NOTES: Linden is 4-6 in group finals, including 4-3 in Group 4 and 0-3 in Group 3. Linden also lost the 1958 and 1978 Group 4 finals and the 1953, 1954 and 1982 Group 3 finals.