Dayton head coach Bob Martin says the season begins with the conference.
“That’s our first goal, to win our division,” Martin said.
This time as the outright champion!
Not deterred by its lone division setback at Summit last week, Dayton bounced back to easily defeat its final three division foes en route to the Union County Conference’s Valley Division championship.
Two years ago the Bulldogs – on their way to winning North 2, Group 1 and then reaching the Group 1 state championship game – shared the Valley Division crown with Roselle and New Providence.
Last year, Dayton finished second behind outright champion Roselle.
This year the Bulldogs are the outright champs.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE 2012-2013 CHAMPIONS:
WATCHUNG DIVISION – Roselle Catholic for the first time
MOUNTAIN DIVISION – Union Catholic for the first time
VALLEY DIVISION – Dayton for 2nd time in last 3 years
Union Catholic, 16-3 overall, was also a second-place finisher last year – in the Mountain Division behind champion Rahway – that placed first this year.
The Vikings captured the Mountain Division crown for the first time with a final division mark of 13-1, the Scotch Plains parochial school splitting with Westfield, which presently sits in second place.
Roselle Catholic, 15-4 overall, was third in the Watchung Division last year before capturing the Watchung title – with a division record of 9-1 and a split with Elizabeth – for the first time this season. The Lions won the UCC’s first Valley Division crown in 2010 and then claimed the Mountain Division championship in 2011.
“We’re very pleased with winning the division,” Roselle Catholic sixth-year head coach Dave 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.”
Dayton is 16-2 overall and was 13-0 and Union County’s last undefeated team before Summit came back in the fourth quarter to beat the Bulldogs 46-41 Jan. 29 at Summit in a highly-anticipated and well-attended Valley Division clash.
Dayton held on to edge Summit 49-48 at home back on Jan. 10.
Summit is also 16-2 overall and will finish second in the Valley Division. The Hilltoppers are 11-2 in the Valley and have one division game left, that one at home against Johnson next Thursday night at 7. Summit beat Johnson 62-39 in Clark back on Jan. 11.
The difference at the top of the Valley Division will be a couple of one-point games at Hillside. Dayton won at Hillside 42-41 on Dec. 20 and Summit lost at Hillside 66-65 on Jan. 25.
When Union Catholic and Dayton met in a conference-crossover clash in Springfield Tuesday, the visiting Vikings came out on top by a score of 78-63. Union Catholic extended an eight-point lead going into the fourth quarter by winning the final eight minutes 27-20.
David Hawthorne and Damon Lynn paced the Vikings with 22-point efforts, while Dayton was sparked offensively by Elijah Brown’s 16 points and 12 points each from Anthony Cioffi and Yousef Zaki.
Dayton rebounded Thursday with a 66-49 Valley Division home win over New Providence, clinching the Valley Division title. Zaki finished with a team-high 13 points and Isaiah Rogers and Cioffi were next with 12 apiece.
The Bulldogs will now get ready for the upcoming North 2, Group 1 playoffs, which for top-seeded Dayton will begin Tuesday, Feb. 26 with a home game against 16th-seeded Newark Collegiate.
Are Dayton and second-seeded University headed for a fourth consecutive playoff clash and third straight in the N2, G1 final?
Both will have to win three playoff games before that matchup is realized. If it happens, it would take place Tuesday, March 5 at Dayton.
University will host 15th-seeded North 13th Street Tech in its first playoff game on Feb. 26.
The pairings just came out Friday and there are always changes, so they are to be taken with a grain of salt at the moment.
Here’s a look at the University-Dayton state playoff games the last 3 years:
March 5, 2012:
North 2, Group 1 final
University 71, Dayton 64 (OT) – at Dayton
University was the 10th seed and Dayton the fourth seed.
Dayton had a three-game winning streak snapped and finished 19-8.
March 8, 2011:
North 2, Group 1 final
Dayton 51, University 50 – at Dayton
Dayton was the top seed and University the third seed.
Dayton won its sixth in a row to improve to 21-5.
March 5, 2010:
North 2, Group 1 semifinals
University 64, Dayton 36 – at University
University was the top seed and Dayton the fourth seed.
University led 30-16 at the half and then won the third quarter 25-9.
Dayton had a four-game winning streak snapped and finished 18-7.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE
BOYS’ BASKETBALL STANDINGS
Through games played Thursday, Feb. 7:
1-Roselle Catholic (9-1) – champion
2-Patrick School (6-3)
Patrick School at Union
Linden at Elizabeth
Elizabeth at Union
1-Union Catholic (13-1) – champion
5-St. Mary’s, Elizabeth (5-9)
7-Scotch Plains (3-11)
8-Gov. Livingston (2-11)
Rahway at Roselle
Westfield at Rahway
Roselle at Gov. Livingston
1-Dayton (13-1) – champion
4-New Providence (7-6)
6-Oratory Prep (4-10)
8-Roselle Park (2-12)
Johnson at Summit
Brearley at New Providence