Union boys basketball got out to best start in more than 2 decades; Famers making strides and proving to be tough out

PHOTOS COURTESY OF KRISTIN NUNES – The Farmers began a season 7-0 for the first time since the 1998-1999 campaign.

The first 7-0 start for the Union boys basketball team in 21 years saw the Farmers open with a thrilling double-overtime victory, capture the Matawan Holiday Tournament for the second time in three years and raise a record amount of money for the St. Jude Foundation.
To show how things could have gone the other way, Union produced two double-overtime wins and two one-point victories among the program’s best beginning since the 1998-1999 squad opened 7-0.
Union defeated Hackensack 66-65 on Jan. 4 as part of a fundraiser at Plainfield to reach seven wins in its first seven contests.
“Hackensack had a couple of big-time players,” Union ninth-year head coach Kevin Feeley said. “We played really hard and handled their pressure extremely well.”
Union’s opening game, part of the 5th annual St. Jude Classic at UHS, saw the Farmers outlast fellow Union County Conference-Mountain Division foe Plainfield 73-72 in double overtime. Union then downed visiting Columbia 67-54 two days later.
At Matawan, Union defeated Freehold Boro 58-49 and then the next day took out host Matawan 72-41.
In the final two days later, Union found itself in another double overtime contest, this time against Carteret. Union prevailed 64-60 to capture the event for the first time since 2017. A year ago, Union lost to Carteret 63-58 in overtime in its first Matawan Holiday Tournament contest.
The Farmers then began January with a 51-32 Mountain Division home win over Scotch Plains.
“We won a lot of those games on how hard we’ve been playing,” Feeley said. “Now we have to play better.”
Returning junior guard Ronn Flood grabbed an offensive rebound, then banked a right-handed shot off the backboard and in just before the buzzer sounded to give Union its one-point win over Hackensack at the first Kayla Spooner Memorial Showcase at Plainfield.
“Sometimes the bounces go your way, but we were just a few, little things away from starting 4-3,” Feeley said.
In the Matawan Holiday Tournament Feeley felt the Matawan game was his team’s most complete up until that point after struggling a bit to get past Freehold Borough.
“Then we played Carteret and they have a real scrappy team,” Feeley said. “They were the first team that kind of put it to us a bit, but we turned it around a little in the second half.”
Through his team’s first 11 games, junior guard Jakin Edmond leads in points with 138 and steals with 14, while sophomore center Emeka Iloh is first in rebounds with 72 and bocks with 19.
Junior guard Gavin Barrett, often times coming in off the bench, leads the team in assists with 35. Senior reserve shooting guard Andrew Sanborn leads in three-point field goals made with 24.
Union’s record was 8-3 overall and 2-3 in the Union County Conference’s Mountain Division as of Jan. 15. The Farmers were swept by Westfield in division play and lost their first division game against Union Catholic at Union Catholic.
Union lost three-and four-point games at Westfield and at Union Catholic before rebounding with a two-point win over non-division foe New Providence at Kean University. The Farmers then lost by 15 points at home to Westfield.
“We have an 11-man roster and almost every kid has played in every game that he was available so far,” Feeley said. “Nobody complains no matter how many minutes they play or shots they take.”
For the three boys basketball games that were played at UHS on Dec. 19 the Union boys basketball program was able to raise a record $16,650 for the St. Jude Foundation to bring the total for the five-year event up to just over $51,000. This year’s donation was $3,000 more than last year’s.
“Every year we’ve been able to increase the amount,” Feeley said. “This year the baseball and softball team joined in for a pasta night.
“We’ve been able to come up with different ways to raise money and that’s why we’ve been successful so far the first five years.”