Linden holds off Union to advance to boys’ basketball UCT championship game

Tigers, seeking first crown since 2007, will take on Patrick School in Saturday's 6 p.m. final at Kean

PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI - Linden junior Terrell Bagley (No. 10) is at the free throw vs. Union in Wednesday night's UCT semifinal at Kean. Bagley led Linden with 20 points, including making nine of 10 from the foul line.
PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI – Linden junior Terrell Bagley (No. 10) is at the free throw vs. Union in Wednesday night’s UCT semifinal at Kean. Bagley led Linden with 20 points, including making nine of 10 from the foul line.

UNION – There were two plays that defined Wednesday night’s Final Four contests, with both taking place in the fourth quarter of games that were – literally – up for grabs.

In the opener between the third-seeded Patrick School and second-seeded Elizabeth, it was a pass by Celtic senior DeAndre Bembry that was too quick for the Minutemen to steal away.

In the nightcap that featured eighth-seeded Union vs. fourth-seeded Linden, it was the only 3-point basket made by junior Juwan Jones that proved to be the knockout blow the Tigers were seeking.

As a result, the Patrick School ended up coming back in the final minute to thwart Elizabeth 51-47, while Linden managed to produce a 54-45 win over Union in Wednesday night’s 77th annual Frank J. Cicarell boys’ basketball semifinals at Kean University’s Harwood Arena.

The championship game is Saturday at 6 p.m. at Kean. The Patrick School swept Linden in Union County Conference-Watchung Division play, winning 70-51 at Linden on Jan. 10 and 58-55 at home on Jan. 31.

 

UCT FINAL

At Kean

Saturday, Feb. 23

4-Linden (17-6 now) vs. 3-Patrick School (21-3 now), 6 p.m.

In Watchung Division play the Patrick School swept Linden:

Jan. 10: Patrick School 70, Linden 51 – at Linden

Jan. 31: Patrick School 58, Linden 55 – at Patrick School

 

UCT SEMIFINALS

At Kean

Wednesday, Feb. 20

Patrick School 51, Elizabeth 47

Linden 54, Union 45

 

The Patrick School advanced to its 20th final in the past 21 years. The Celtics and Minutemen previously split Watchung Division games.

The Patrick School – which leads Union County in victories – extended its winning streak to nine, now owners of a 21-3 record. Its last loss was at Elizabeth on Jan. 22.

Elizabeth had a six-game winning streak snapped and slipped to 16-5. The Minutemen, who were seeking to reach the final for the first time since 2009 and win it for the first time since 2004, will next look to take North 2, Group 4.

Linden, which is in the final for the first time since 2011 and seeking its first crown since 2007, won its second straight to improve to 17-6.

Union, which reached the semifinals for the first time since 2010 and was seeking to get to the final for the first time since 1999, fell to 11-13. The Farmers, who won three UCT contests, will also look to do some damage in N2, G4 and is at Elizabeth in a first round game Feb. 25.

Elizabeth just took its final lead at 47-46 with 54.6 seconds remaining following a conventional 3-point play produced by senior Hakeem Rogers, who finished with 11 points. Rogers drove through the lane, scored and was fouled, making the ensuing free throw.

Following a Patrick School timeout at mid court, the Celtics put the ball in Bembry’s hands. The game’s leading scorer with 17 points, instead of looking for a shot, Bembry dished quickly to senior Kamar McNight underneath on the left side.

McKnight, who had only two points up to that moment, easily scored inside to give the Patrick School its sixth lead and the advantage for good at 48-47.

Elizabeth came back down, with Rogers trying to get a shot off. After Elizabeth tried to grab the ball back, it went out of bounds, with the Celtics gaining possession.

After an Elizabeth foul, Chris Regus – who finished with nine points – made one of two free throws to extend the Patrick School lead to 49-47.

Elizabeth and Rogers came back down again and Rogers had a clear shot in the lane. However, the ball rolled around the rim and out, with the Celtics gaining possession again and getting fouled with just 0.3 seconds remaining.

Darrin Collins, who finished with seven points, made his only two free throws for the final score of 51-47.

Senior Isaiah Davis paced Elizabeth with a 13-point effort, while senior Damon Miraud added 10.

After the first quarter, it appeared that Union might not be able to hang with Linden following a 15-7 Tiger advantage. However, the Farmers didn’t allow Linden to run away with the game before intermission and in not only the second quarter, but also the third quarter hung around with the Tigers, winning each period by three points to pull to within two points heading into the final period.

Union was lifted by the outstanding outside shooting of senior Jaleel Chain, who finished with a game-high 23 points, including three 3s.

Linden, again, received a stellar performance from junior Terrell Bagley, who paced the Tigers with 20 points and was almost perfect from the free throw line again, making nine of 10 attempts after being a perfect 10-for-10 – all in the important fourth quarter – in his team’s come-from-behind quarterfinal win vs. Union Catholic.

Union managed to come back from a deficit as large as 10 points at 22-12 midway through the second quarter to tie the game at 30-30 on a layup by senior Corey Edwards – that was his only field goal of the game – with 4:16 left in the third quarter.

Union senior guard Erick Lofton-Harris, who made the game-winning shot to eliminate top-seeded Roselle Catholic, finished with four points. Lofton-Harris battled until the very end, despite missing some layups that he normally makes.

Linden tried to build separation later in the third quarter, going up by six at 39-33 before Union came back again. The Farmers pulled to within 41-40 with just less than five minutes to go on a basket by sophomore Tevin Service, who finished with eight points.

At that point, like the game before, the fourth quarter and the contest was there for the taking. Enter Jones.

Jones found an opening on the left side and drained his lone 3-pointer to extend Linden’s lead to 44-40, which seemed – and, obviously, was – huge. Union then turned the ball over with 3:34 left.

Jones then went back to practically the same spot and this time – from 2-point range – drained his third and final field goal, giving Linden a 46-40 lead with just over three minutes to go.

Jones finished with seven points, including – perhaps – the game’s two biggest baskets.

Linden outscored Union 8-5 the rest of the way en route to its third win over the Farmers in three tries, including two Watchung Division triumphs.

Union gave Linden a much better game than when the teams last played a month ago, which was a 21-point Tiger home triumph.

NOTES: Linden will be seeking its third UCT crown under head coach Phil Colicchio, with the first two coming against St Patrick at the Dunn Sport Center in Elizabeth.

The first one – in 2001 – was a fourth quarter comeback by Linden that saw the Tigers defeat the five-time defending champion Celtics 76-59. Linden won Group 4 for the first time the year before in 2000.

The second one – in 2007 – might be the greatest Linden victory of all time, including Group 4 state championship wins, a Tournament of Champions victory over Bloomfield Tech, out-of-state triumphs and a regular season victory over St. Anthony. Linden led St. Patrick from start to finish in posting a convincing 63-51 double-digit win.

Sparked by the outstanding guard play of senior Darrell Lampley and junior Desmond Wade, Linden went on to repeat as Group 4 state champions en route to a program-best 30-3 finish.

St. Patrick finished 30-2 and was the Non-Public B state champion and the TOC winner. Losing to Linden cost the Celtics the final No. 1 national ranking that season in USA Today.

In the UCT final, Linden received a game-high 25 points from Lampley, 16 from Wade and 12 from Jerry Jones. St. Patrick’s two best players that year – seniors Corey Fisher and Jeff Robinson – were limited to a quiet 20 points from Fisher and just 10 from Robinson.

Two days earlier, St. Patrick defeated Huntington of West Virginia 78-76 in overtime at Marshall University, with St. Patrick head coach Kevin Boyle saying after the UCT final loss that his team was fully rested to play Linden.

Linden’s seventh win in a row snapped an 18-game St. Patrick winning streak.

 

UNION HEAD COACH KEVIN FEELEY TALKS ABOUT THE LINDEN GAME:

 

ON FALLING BEHIND 15-7 AFTER THE FIRST QUARTER:

“Playing defense is our strength. We gave up some early offensive rebounds.

There was a lot of nervous energy from our kids. We just had to settle down and play basketball.”

 

ON COMING BACK FROM 10-POINT DEFICIT – 22-12

“We knew that if the lead didn’t get out of hand that we could. We had to just keep ourselves in the game.”

 

ON TYING THE GAME AT 30-30 IN THE THIRD QUARTER

“We came back and tied it, but we never got the lead, they were winning the entire game. We never got over the hump, which is a credit to Linden.

 

ON LINDEN’S JUWAN JONES MAKING HIS HUGE BACK-TO-BACK BASKETS

IN THE FOURTH QUARTER TO EXTEND LINDEN’S LEAD FROM 41-40 TO 46-40

(JONES HIT A 3 AND THEN AFTER UNION’S NEXT POSSESSION WHERE IT DID NOT SCORE

JONES HIT A 2 – THE SHOTS FROM THE SAME LEFT SIDE OF THE COURT)

“When he threw up the 3 it looked like it was going in. It was a big shot by a good player. I thought that was the turning point right there. In order to pull off an upset you need to have so many things go right. Linden’s a good team and was able to never give up the lead.”

 

ON HIS TEAM’S OVERALL PERFORMANCE IN THE UCT – 3 WINS IN 4 GAMES

“Our kids battled, just like they did against RC, and they don’t quit.”

 

Union will play a conference-crossover game at St. Mary’s of Elizabeth Thursday night and will then play at Elizabeth Monday night in a first round North 2, Group 4 encounter at the Dunn Center.

 

UNION HAS A KNACK FOR ELIMINATING TOP UCT SEEDS

Last May, the eighth-seeded Union baseball team eliminated top-seeded and defending champion Cranford 3-1 in the UCT quarterfinals, sparked by an outstanding pitching performance from senior left hander Devin Zimmerman.

Last Saturday, the eighth-seeded Union boys’ basketball team ousted top-seeded Roselle Catholic in the UCT quarterfinals, preventing the Lions from reaching the semifinals for the third straight season.

 

FIRST UCT BOYS’ BASKETBALL SEMIFINAL AT KEAN

3-PATRICK SCHOOL (21-3)                 16     11     13    11 – 51

2-ELIZABETH (16-5)                             12     12     13    10 – 47

 

3-PATRICK SCHOOL CELTICS (51):

2-Darrin Collins, senior, 1-1-2-7

32-DeAndre Bembry, senior, 5-0-7-17

1-Jason Boswell, senior, 1-0-0-2

5-Chris Regus, senior, 2-1-2-9

0-Daniel Knight, sophomore, 4-0-0-8

12-Kamar McKnight, sophomore, 2-0-0-4

11-Isaiah Still, sophomore, 1-0-2-4

Starters: Bembry, McKnight,

Collins, Knight, Regus

Totals: 16-2-13-51

 

2-ELIZABETH MINUTEMEN (47):

24-Isaiah Davis, senior, 5-1-0-13

5-Jahad Thomas, senior, 2-0-1-5

10-Hakeem Rogers, senior, 3-0-5-11

13-Taahir, Pretlow, sophomore, 0-1-0-3

12-Damon Miraud, senior, 3-1-1-10

15-Kason Campbell, senior, 0-0-3-3

3-Jalen Kenkins, junior, 0-0-2-2

Starters: Thomas, Rogers,

Pretlow, Miraud, Davis

Totals: 13-3-12-47

 

SECOND UCT BOYS’ BASKETBALL SEMIFINAL AT KEAN

8-UNION (11-13)                                           7        16      14     8 – 45

4-LINDEN (17-6)                                        15       13      11     15 – 54

 

8-UNION FARMERS (45):

3-Jaleel Chain, senior, 5-3-4-23

5-Tevin Service, sophomore, 4-0-0-8

1-Erick Lofton-Harris, senior, 0-1-1-4

2-Corey Edwards, senior, 1-1-0-5

20-Jaron McNair, junior, 1-0-0-2

32-Tarjay Adams, junior, 1-0-1-3

Starters: Chain, Edwards,

Lofton-Harris, Adams, Service

Totals: 12-5-6-45

 

4-LINDEN TIGERS (54):

30-Quadri Moore, senior, 4-0-4-12

1-Justin Dolbrice, sophomore, 1-0-4-6

2-Joshua Carter, sophomore, 1-0-1-3

5-Juwan Jones, junior, 2-1-0-7

10-Terrell Bagley, junior, 4-1-9-20

23-Alonzo Hamilton, junior, 0-0-2-2

4-James Julius, sophomore, 2-0-0-4

Starters: Moore, Jones,

Bagley, Dolbrice, Carter

Totals: 14-2-20-54

 

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 58, Plainfield 50 – Ed “Buzzy” Fox

1966: Linden 61, 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

CHAMPIONSHIPS: Jefferson-Elizabeth 21, St. Patrick 16,

Linden 10, Rahway 5, Roselle 5, Springfield 4, St. Mary’s 4,

Plainfield 4, Westfield 3, Union 2, Cranford 1, Johnson Regional 1.

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