Roselle Catholic boys’ basketball, seeking its initial UCT title, is the top seed for the first time

Lions reached the final last year for the first time since 1963

For the first time since – well – who knows, Roselle Catholic finds itself as the hunted team.

For a change, the Lions have a target on their backs.

And this all still comes before Roselle Catholic has won its first county championship.

Roselle Catholic finds itself in the unfamiliar territory of being the top seed for the 77th annual Frank J. Cicarell boys’ basketball Union County Tournament, which will tip off on Saturday at Johnson in Clark – weather permitting – with the lone preliminary round game and the initial two first round contests.

Roselle Catholic, as the fifth seed, reached the semifinals two years ago for the first time since the 1990s and then last year as the third seed made it to the final for only the second time in program history and for the first time in 49 years.

“We’ll go out and try to win it this year just as we tried last year as the No. 3 seed,” said Boff, with his team ranked as high as second in the state this season early on. “We lost in the finals last year and were devastated.

“If you reach the final and believe you can win and don’t win, there’s a level of devastation. When you look back on it, say during the summer, it’s something nice that was accomplished, especially since the school had not done so (reach the final) in a long time.

“But when you’re in the moment of the game and it doesn’t go your way, it’s tough.”

Roselle Catholic players who helped the Tigers reach the championship game last year and are back include Syracuse-bound senior Tyler Roberson, senior Hakim Saintil, senior Ryan Quinn, senior Kory Highsmith and sophomore Kameron David.

“Those kids remember how bad they felt last year,” Boff said.

The state’s oldest county tournament consists of 21 of the 22 teams situated in the Union County Conference. Only Brearley is not participating.

For the third straight year the top four seeds receive byes and will not play until the quarterfinals. Those top four seeds: 1-Roselle Catholic, 2-Elizabeth, 3-Patrick School of Elizabeth and 4-Linden are ranked among the Top 10 schools in this week’s Star-Ledger statewide rankings – Roselle Catholic at 6, Patrick School at 7, Elizabeth at 9 and Linden at 10.

The fifth seed – Union Catholic – is sparked by one of the state’s leading scorers in Hillside resident Damon Lynn, a senior sharpshooter from long range.

Lynn has led the Vikings to the UCC’s Mountain Division championship and the Scotch Plains parochial school to a 15-3 overall record as of Thursday.

Roselle Catholic earned the top seed by virtue of its 5-1 record against the other top four seeds. The Lions swept the Patrick School, split with Elizabeth and just swept Linden in Watchung Division play.

“In my opinion Union County is the best county in the state,” Boff said. “For a majority of the season we’ve had four teams in the top 10 in New Jersey.”

If the Lions are to reach the final for the second straight season and for only the third time – the first time was 50 years ago in 1963 – they will, barring upset, have to beat Linden for a third time, which would be in the first semifinal that is scheduled for Feb. 19 at Kean.

Before that matchup has a chance to materialize, Boff realizes that his team will have a very challenging quarterfinal game to win.

“We look at it as in any other year,” Boff said. “We’ll focus on the opponent directly in front of us, prepare for them and if we win we’ll move on and then prepare for our next opponent.

“We’re not going to talk about what seed we are or who we may see.”

Roselle Catholic edged Linden 55-53 at Linden on Jan. 17 and then on Tuesday night held off the Tigers 53-52 at home.

Roselle Catholic defeated the Patrick School 73-65 at Kean on Opening Night on Dec. 14 and then downed the Celtics 91-68 at home on Jan. 16.

Roselle Catholic’s only county loss was its Watchung Division setback to a more complete Elizabeth squad 58-56 at Kean on Jan. 12. The Lions rebounded to edge Elizabeth 57-56 in overtime at home on Jan. 24.

“If you can go through those opponents and win five out of six games, that allows you to garner the top seed,” Boff said. “Probably our performance in those games carried the most weight.”

Boff doesn’t feel any differently about stepping on the court as the top seed for the first time.

“I don’t think there’s any added pressure,” Boff said. “No matter what seed you are you have the pressure of wanting to win the championship.

“It’s no different if you are the 1 seed or the 2 seed or the 5th.”

In last year’s UCT, Roselle Catholic defeated second-seeded St. Patrick 72-61 in the semifinals at Kean. In doing so, Roselle Catholic not only reached the final for the first time since the early 1960s, but the Lions prevented the four-time defending champion Celtics from reaching the final for the first time since 1992, ending a string of 19 straight seasons in the championship game.

Boff’s 2011 team prevented the top four seeds from all reaching the semifinals under the new format. Roselle Catholic ousted fourth-seeded Union 57-42 at Rahway in the quarterfinals. Roberson, a sophomore at Union at the time, led the Farmers in that game with a team-high 12 points.

While not many diehard Union County fans would predict that any of the top four seeds would lose their quarterfinal round games, Boff feels that there are quality basketball teams seeded below the initial four.

“There are teams seeded throughout the county below the top four that if they play their best basketball could put together a nice run,” Boff said. “The second time we played Union we were down by three points early in the third quarter.”

Roselle Catholic swept Union in Watchung Division play. If the Farmers win their two first round games, then the teams will meet again in the quarterfinals.

“There are certainly opportunities for other teams,” Boff said. “One thing about the county this year, there are a bunch of teams that could get on a run and make a push into the final or win it.”

All four tops seeds reached the semifinals last year year, those teams being top seed and eventual champion Plainfield, second-seeded St. Patrick, third-seeded Roselle Catholic and fourth-seeded Elizabeth.

“It should be an exciting tournament,” Boff said. “There are teams in this county that can give you some trouble.”

As of Thursday, Roselle Catholic stood at 14-4, Elizabeth at 14-4, the Patrick School at 17-3 and Linden at 15-5.

Roselle Catholic also captured the Watchung Division championship with a 9-1 record, all 10 of its division games complete.

Roselle Catholic finished third in the Watchung Division last year behind second-place St. Patrick and champion Plainfield. In 2010, Boff guided Roselle Catholic to the first UCC-Valley Division championship. Boff’s 2011 squad won the UCC’s Mountain Division crown.

“We’re very pleased with winning the division,” Boff said. “Some of the kids in our program don’t realize that we won the Valley Division three years ago.

“To win division titles on all three levels and to do so three of the last four years is a credit to what our kids have done with the program over the last few years.”

NOTES: Roselle Catholic is next scheduled to play at conference-crossover rival Gov. Livingston Thursday afternoon. Its conference-crossover game at Westfield Friday has already been cancelled due to that day’s expected snowfall.

Roselle Catholic is then scheduled to take on Bishop Kearney of Rochester, N.Y. at home Sunday at 3:30 p.m. in the Primetime Shootout, which is at RC for the second straight season. Weather permitting, seven games are scheduled for Saturday and five for Sunday. Other Union County schools involved in Saturday matchups include Elizabeth, Union Catholic, Plainfield and Linden.

 

77TH ANNUAL FRANK J. CICARELL

BOYS’ BASKETBALL

UNION COUNTY TOURNAMENT

SEEDS: 1-Roselle Catholic. 2-Elizabeth. 3-Patrick School. 4-Linden.

5-Union Catholic. 6-Plainfield. 7-Westfield. 8-Union.

9-Rahway. 10-Roselle. 11-Dayton. 12-Summit.

13-St. Mary’s, Elizabeth. 14-Cranford. 15-Hillside. 16-Scotch Plains.

17-Gov. Livingston. 18-New Providence. 19-Oratory Prep. 20-Johnson.

21-Roselle Park.

 

PRELIMINARY ROUND

Saturday, Feb. 9

21-Roselle Park at 20-Johnson, noon

 

FIRST ROUND

Saturday, Feb. 9

At Johnson

17-Gov. Livingston vs. 8-Union, 2 p.m.

16-Scotch Plains vs. 9-Rahway, 3:30 p.m.

Sunday, Feb 10

At Rahway

19-Oratory Prep vs. 6-Plainfield, 11:30 a.m.

13-St. Mary’s vs. 12-Summit, 1 p.m.

5-Union Catholic vs. Johnson/RP winner, 2:30 p.m.

15-Hillside vs. 10-Roselle, 4 p.m.

18-New Providence vs. 7-Westfield, 5:30 p.m.

14-Cranford vs. 11-Dayton, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 13

At Roselle Catholic

8-9 bracket, 6 p.m.

5-12 bracket, 7:30 p.m.

At Rahway

7-10 bracket, 6 p.m.

6-11 bracket, 7:30 p.m.

 

QUARTERFINALS

Saturday, Feb. 16

At a site still to be determined.

TOP SIDE OF THE BRACKET:

4-Linden vs. 5-12 bracket

1-Roselle Catholic vs. 8-9 bracket

BOTTOM SIDE OF THE BRACKET:

3-Patrick School vs. 6-11 bracket

2-Elizabeth vs. 7-10 bracket

 

SEMIFINALS

Tuesday, Feb. 19

TOP SIDE OF THE BRACKET

(seeds 4 and 1):

At Kean, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 20

BOTTOM SIDE OF THE BRACKET

(seeds 3 and 2):

At Kean, 7:30 p.m.

 

FINALS

Saturday, Feb. 23

At Kean

JV: 4 p.m.

Varsity: 6 p.m.

 

FRANK J. CICARELL UCT BOYS’ BASKETBALL

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME SCORES, WINNING COACHES:

2012: Plainfield 72, Roselle Catholic 66 – Jeff Lubreski – at Kean

2011: St. Patrick 70, Linden 58 – Kevin Boyle – at Kean

2010: St. Patrick 82, Plainfield 45 – Kevin Boyle – at Kean

2009: St. Patrick 89, Elizabeth 72 – Kevin Boyle

2008: St. Patrick 67, Linden 56 – Kevin Boyle

2007: Linden 63, St. Patrick 51 – Phil Colicchio

2006: St. Patrick 65, Plainfield 52 – Kevin Boyle

2005: St. Patrick 77, Linden 68 – Kevin Boyle

2004: Elizabeth 58, St. Patrick 51 – Donald Stewart

2003: St. Patrick 68, Linden 62 – Kevin Boyle

2002: Elizabeth 75, St. Patrick 61 – Pat Brunner

2001: Linden 76, St. Patrick 59 – Phil Colicchio

2000: St. Patrick 69, Linden 55 – Kevin Boyle

1999: St. Patrick 52, Union 43 – Kevin Boyle

1998: St. Patrick 76, Union 45 – Kevin Boyle

1997: St. Patrick 61, Elizabeth 48 – Kevin Boyle

1996: St. Patrick’s 65, Elizabeth 47 – Kevin Boyle

1995: Elizabeth 50, St. Patrick 49 – Ben Candelino

1994: St. Patrick 63, Hillside 47 – Kevin Boyle

1993: St. Patrick 45, Elizabeth 41 – Kevin Boyle

1992: Elizabeth 69, Linden 57 – Ben Candelino

1991: Elizabeth 76, Linden 49 – Ben Candelino

1990: Elizabeth 96, Roselle 67 – Ben Candelino

1989: Elizabeth 65, Roselle 57 – Ben Candelino

1988: Linden 50, Elizabeth 45 – Wilbur Aikens

1987: Elizabeth 62, Linden 61 – Ben Candelino

1986: Elizabeth 50, Union Catholic 43 – Ben Candelino

1985: Elizabeth 70, Rahway 56 – Ben Candelino

1984: Elizabeth 57, Plainfield 42 – Ben Candelino

1983: Linden 66, Roselle 60 – Wilbur Aikens

1982: Linden 86, Union Catholic 67 – Wilbur Aikens

1981: Johnson Regional 73, Hillside 61 – Steve Petruzzelli

1980: Union 65, Plainfield 63 – Tom Fox

1979: Plainfield 70, Linden 68 – Rico Parenti

1978: Elizabeth 62, Plainfield 60 – Ron Kelly

1977: Roselle 75, Rahway 54 – Dick Young

1976: Roselle 61, Union 54 – Dick Young

1975: Plainfield 69, Rahway 64 – Rico Parenti

1974: Union 61, Cranford 48 – Tom Fox

1973: Linden 69, Roselle 53 – Wayman Everly

1972: Jefferson 50, Linden 43 – Ron Kelly

1971: Roselle 73, Linden 71 – Dick Young

1970: Jefferson 68, St. Mary’s 61 – Ron Kelly

1969: Jefferson 55, St. Mary’s 47 – Ron Kelly

1968: Linden 63, Jefferson 62 – Joe Gaines

1967: St. Patrick’s 58, Plainfield 50 – Ed “Buzzy” Fox

1966: Linden 51, St. Patrick 56 – Joe Gaines

1965: Westfield 61, Cranford 52 – Bob Sanislow

1964: Cranford 68, Linden 61 – Bill Martin

1963: Westfield 65, Roselle Catholic 45 – John Lay

1962: St. Mary’s 40, Linden 30 – Al LoBalbo

1961: Roselle 45, St. Mary’s 43 – Ralph Arminio

1960: St. Mary’s 53, Jefferson 43 – Al LoBalbo

1959: Westfield 54, Cranford 46 – John Lay

1958: Roselle 66, Cranford 64 – Ralph Arminio

1957: Rahway 64, Jefferson 51 – Bob Berger

1956: Plainfield 58, Sacred Heart 51 – Bill Brann

1955: Jefferson 52, St. Mary’s 44 – Bill Tranavitch

1954: Jefferson 57, Springfield 44 – Bill Tranavitch

1953: Linden 59, Union 38 – G. St. Andrassy

1952: St. Mary’s 48, Linden 30 – Al LoBalbo

1951: St. Mary’s 37, Jefferson 36 – Al LoBalbo

1950: Jefferson 69, Hillside 57 – Bill Tranavitch

1949: Jefferson 42, Hillside 41 – Bob Cox

1948: Jefferson 33, Springfield 32 – Bob Cox

1947: Springfield 31, Linden 29 – Walter Hohn

1946: Springfield 37, Linden 34 – Walter Hohn

1945: Jefferson 39, Roselle Park 23 – Abner West

1944: St. Patrick 40, Roselle Park 36 – Ken Milsop

1943: Rahway 34, Jefferson 33 – Earl Walter

1942: Rahway 46, Jefferson 30 – Earl Walter

1941: Rahway 32, Hillside 24 – Earl Walter

1940: Springfield 35, Cranford 33 – Bill Brown

1939: Linden 30, Plainfield 20 – Les Goodwin

1938: Springfield 25, Rahway 24 – Bill Brown

1937: Rahway 27, Hillside 17 – Earl Walter

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