Elizabeth boys basketball wins North 2, Group 4

ELIZABETH, NJ — Since Phil Colicchio took over as head coach of the Elizabeth High School – Frank J. Cicarell Academy boys basketball team six years ago, he has guided the Minutemen to the North 2, Group 4 final four out of a possible five times.

All four sectional state championship games were decided by two points. Elizabeth lost the first one. The Minutemen rebounded to win the next three.

The latest nail-biter took place Friday night, March 1, at the Thomas Dunn Sport Center in Elizabeth. The host Minutemen led by double-digits in the fourth quarter, only to see eighth-seeded Plainfield High School produce a 12-0 run to tie the game.

Third-seeded Elizabeth managed to score the game’s final basket on a layup by junior Jordan Torres to take the lead for good. The Minutemen then held on defensively, thanks in part to 6-foot 4-inch senior Christopher Clark’s stops within the game’s final five seconds, to capture its third North 2, Group 4 crown in the past five seasons.

Elizabeth, which split with Plainfield in Union County Conference-Watchung Division play, held on for another hard-fought 69-67 sectional state championship game triumph.

To say that the sectional finals Elizabeth has competed in with Colicchio have been heart-pounding would be an understatement.

Here’s a look at the four scores from those contests:

North 2, Group 4 Sectional State Championship games

• 2019: Newark East Side 50, Elizabeth 48 – at Dunn Center

• 2020: Elizabeth 56, Watchung Hills 54 – at Watchung Hills

• 2022: Elizabeth 49, Linden 47 – at Linden

• 2024: Elizabeth 69, Plainfield 67 – at Dunn Center

Maybe it was only fitting that this latest game was decided by two points. When prominent Union County programs such as Elizabeth and Plainfield clash on the hardwood, no lead seems safe.

The victory kept Elizabeth at home and put them up against North 1, Group 4 champion Ridgewood High School in the Group 4 semifinal at Thomas Dunn Sports Center on Tuesday, March 5. The other semifinal on Tuesday, March 5, pitted South Jersey champion Lenape High School against Central Jersey champ Montgomery High School at Central Regional High School.

The winners of those games are scheduled to clash on Saturday, March 9, at 4:30 p.m., in the 2024 Group 4 boys basketball state championship game at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway.
Two years ago, Colicchio, a 1984 Elizabeth graduate, guided the Minutemen to their first Group 4 state championship since 1991.

Before that, Colicchio led Linden High School to six Group 4 state championships in 2000, 2006, 2007, 2014, 2016 and 2017. Those are all six state championships Linden has won.

2024 Boys Basketball Group 4 State Championship
Saturday, March 9, 4:30 p.m.

At Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway

• Ridgewood/Elizabeth vs. Lenape/Montgomery

Group 4 Semifinals
Tuesday, March 5

At Dunn Sport Center, Elizabeth

• Northern Jersey 1-Ridgewood vs. Northern Jersey 2-Elizabeth

At Central Regional

• Southern Jersey-Lenape vs. Central Jersey-Montgomery

Torres paced Elizabeth with 18 points and two steals and tied senior guard-forward London Carson with a team-high six rebounds. Carson, with 14 points, and freshman guard Jayden Johnson, with 11, also scored in double-digits for the Minutemen, who won for the fourth straight time.

Plainfield freshman guard Micah Gordon led all scorers with 29 points. Sophomore forward Rashawn Williams also scored in double-digits for the Cardinals with 15 points. Williams and junior forward Ala-Meen Watkins tied for the team and game lead in rebounds with 10 each.

Plainfield’s only lead was 2-0. Elizabeth led 23-13 after the first eight minutes, 40-28 at the break and then 55-46 going into the fourth quarter.

The Cardinals improved a great deal in 2023-2024, finishing 19-8 one year after coming in at 4-13.

Elizabeth finished second in the Watchung Division at 7-2. Union Catholic High School, which captured its first Union County Tournament championship last month, was first at 8-2.

Union Catholic sought a second straight Non-Public, South A sectional state championship Monday, March 4, when the second-seeded Vikings faced fifth-seeded Paul VI High School at Lenape.

Colicchio Sectional State Championships

At Linden and Elizabeth

Colicchio went 9-5 in the North 2, Group 4 final at Linden and is now 3-1 in the game at Elizabeth.

Since 2000, when Colicchio guided Linden to the North 2, Group 4 crown for the first time, Colicchio has won the North 2, Group 4 final 12 times in the past 24 seasons it was contested, 2000-2020 and 2022-2024. That’s one every other year for one season shy of a quarter of a century.

Not bad.

Colicchio is also 7-1 in the Group 4 state championship game: 6-1 at Linden and presently 1-0 at Elizabeth. The Minutemen began the week just two wins shy of capturing Group 4 for the second time in three years.

Colicchio in North 2, Group 4 final – 12-6 overall.

9-5 at Linden. 3-1 at Elizabeth:

Wins at Linden: 2000, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017.

Losses at Linden: 1999, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2018.

Wins at Elizabeth: 2020, 2022, 2024.

Loss at Elizabeth: 2019.

Colicchio began the week with an overall record of 565-195 or .743.
He was 12-11 at Barringer High School in 1996-1997.

At Linden, Colicchio was 438-154 for 21 seasons from 1997-1998 through 2017-2018.

So far at Elizabeth, Colicchio is 115-30 in his first six seasons.