The show must go on?
Well it did for the Elizabeth boys basketball team Thursday night, at home, and in front of no fans.
Under New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s mandate, with only teams and essential staff in attendance, the North 1 vs. North 2 boys basketball semifinal between Group 4 sectional champions Paterson Kennedy and Elizabeth was played as scheduled at the Dunn Sport Center in Elizabeth.
New Jersey’s only boys basketball state tournament game that was played Thursday night went the way of the Minutemen as Elizabeth moved one step closer to its first Group 4 state championship in 29 years.
However, Elizabeth will not get a chance to capture Group 4 for the first time since 1991.
The latest New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Statement regarding the State Basketball Tournament and Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) read like this late Thursday evening:
“The NJSIAA has cancelled the remainder of the boys and girls basketball championships. The games will not be rescheduled.
“We have been making our decisions one day at a time, taking into account the best available guidance from the state health department and the CDC. Now, given the rapidly changing circumstances and uncertainties facing our member schools, our student-athletes, our host facilities, and many others, we no longer see a viable path to the completion of the Group Championships on Saturday and Sunday.
“We understand that our decision will disappoint many, but believe it to be in the best interest of our student-athletes and all those involved with the games.”
Thus, there will be no state champions in 2020.
Elizabeth reached the Group 4 final for the first time since 2012. The Minutemen would have played South Jersey, Group 4 champion Atlantic City at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in one of Sunday’s four group finals in Atlantic City had the games been played.
The Vikings were to play Central Jersey, Group 4 champion South Brunswick in the other Group 4 semifinal Thursday night at Egg Harbor Township. Earlier Thursday EHT announced that it would not host the game.
According to an online story written by Ahmad Austin of The Press of Atlantic City, South Brunswick requested a delay on the game after it was revealed a student, who has come into contact with players and coaches, may have been exposed to the disease. The NJSIAA denied the request, putting Atlantic City in the final.
The NJSIAA could also not honor South Brunswick’s appeal.
Behind 21 points and 11 rebounds from senior forward Jordan Price and 14 points from fellow senior DJ Watkins, Elizabeth downed Paterson Kennedy 57-35 in the final game of the season for both.
Elizabeth, which just captured North 2, Group 4 for the first time since 2012, won its fifth straight to finish at 24-4. The Minutemen concluded with 10 wins in their final 11 games.
Paterson Kennedy, which just captured North 1, Group 4 for the first time since 1998, saw its season conclude at 27-4. The Knights, who received nine points each from seniors Deishon Harrison and Jahmahli Carnegie, began 13-0 before falling for the first time.
Thursday’s updated NJSIAA Statement regarding the State Basketball Tournament and Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) before any boys or girls games were played stated that there will to be no sanctions or penalties imposed on schools who opted not to participate in Thursday night’s games. Fans were able to live-stream the Paterson-Kennedy-Elizabeth contest.
Earlier Thursday, sectional champions Hackettstown and South Brunswick decided to cancel their seasons as a result of the global pandemic we are now in. The Group 2 semifinal between the top-ranked team in the state, Camden (29-1), and Manasquan (31-1) at RWJ Barnabas Health Arena was originally going to be played in front of no fans before being cancelled altogether.
The Non-Public state finals were to be played at RWJ Barnabas Health Arena on Saturday, including St. Augustine vs. Bergen Catholic in Non-Public A and Wildwood Catholic vs. Roselle Catholic in Non-Public B. Again, fans were not to be permitted to attend.
Roselle Catholic reached the Non-Public B state championship game for the third straight season and the seventh time in the past eight. RC won in 2013, 2014 and 2015, lost in 2016, won again in 2018 and was defeated by Ranney in the final last year after beating Ranney in the final two years ago en route to its third Tournament of Champions crown.
Roselle Catholic was one of New Jersey’s hottest teams down the stretch, winning 12 of its final 13 games to conclude at 22-7. After losing to Patrick School of Elizabeth three times in three tries, including in the Union County Tournament final, RC downed the host Celtics 56-49 to advance to the Non-Public, North B final. There the Lions edged top-seeded Gill St. Bernard’s 59-58 at the Dunn Sport Center Wednesday night to win a sectional title for the seventh time in the last eight seasons.
NOTES: Sophomore point guard Jayden Pierre, the hero with the last second, game-winning basket Tuesday night at Watchung Hills, scored nine points and dished out six assists vs. Kennedy. Fellow starter Zyree Beverly added six points and five rebounds.
Elizabeth second-year head coach Phil Colicchio won his 500th game and 50th at his alma mater. His first 12 wins came in his first and only season as a head coach at Barringer during the 1996-1997 campaign and his next 438 came in his following 21 seasons as a head coach at Linden from 1997-1998 to 2017-2018.
Colicchio guided Linden to all six (2000, 2006, 2007, 2014, 2016, 2017) of its Group 4 state championships in seven Group 4 final appearances. Colicchio’s 400th win came on the day Linden won the 2016 Group 4 state championship at Rutgers over Atlantic City.
The show must go on?