Four Union County boys basketball teams remain undefeated

UNION COUNTY, NJ — After three games to start the 2023-2024 high school boys basketball campaign in Union County, four teams found themselves still undefeated.

As of Thursday, Dec. 21, those schools were Oratory Prep School, Governor Livingston High School and Group 4 powers Linden High School and Elizabeth High School at Frank J. Cicarell Academy.
Oratory Prep also led the Union County Conference’s Mountain Division standings at 3-0 after division wins at home against Summit High School, 49-44; at Cranford High School, 70-58; and home vs. Hillside High School, 59-44, on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

Guided by head coach Connor Daugherty, the Summit parochial school is coming off a 14-12 overall finish a year ago and a 6-4 Mountain Division mark.

Governor Livingston was also in first place with a 3-0 division record in the division it is situated in, which is the UCC’s Valley Division. The Highlanders, led by longtime mentor Chris Loeffler, began with a home win against his high school alma mater, Jonathan Dayton High School, 45-41, in Governor Livingston’s season and home opener on Thursday, Dec. 14.

Governor Livingston followed with victories at David Brearley High School, 57-34, and at Roselle Park High School, 41-35, on Tuesday, Dec. 19. The Highlanders finished 8-12 overall last year and were 5-6 in the Valley Division.

Linden and Elizabeth, in addition to their overall 3-0 starts, were also both 2-0 and leading the UCC’s Watchung Division. Elizabeth was first in the Watchung Division last year at 9-1 and went 15-8 overall. Linden was second at 8-2 and finished 24-7 overall, including a North 2, Group 4 sectional state title.

Linden opened at Union Catholic and came away from the Scotch Plains-Fanwood parochial high school with a 62-51 division triumph. The Tigers then defeated Weequahic High School, 80-40, in a Brick City Showcase game contested at Essex County College. Linden then won at division rival Westfield High School, 70-54, on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

Elizabeth scored in the low 50s in its first three games and played the trademark Phil Colicchio defense to allow no more than 48 in any of the three victories. Elizabeth beat Westfield at home, 51-43, in division play and then at Essex County College downed Saddle River Day School, 55-48, in an in-season tournament.

Elizabeth then won at division foe Union High School by the score of 52-39 on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

Rahway and New Providence high schools were also undefeated in division play. The Indians were 2-1 overall and 2-0 and in second place in the Mountain Division. The Pioneers were also 2-1 overall and 2-0 in the Valley Division.

Here were the Union County Conference standings and overall records as of Thursday, Dec. 21, which was through the first week of the season:

Watchung Division, six schools: 1-Linden, 3-0. Elizabeth, 3-0. 3-Union Catholic, 1-1. Plainfield, 1-1. 5-Union, 0-2. 6-Westfield, 0-2.

Sophomore forward Jekhi Burnam and senior guard Nas Robinson were leading Linden in scoring with 48 points each.

Junior guard Cameron McRae poured in 36 points in Elizabeth’s first three contests, while teammate London Carson, a senior guard, netted 31.

Mountain Division, seven schools: 1-Oratory Prep, 3-0. 2-Rahway, 2-0. 3-Summit, 1-1. 4-Cranford, 1-2. 5-Hillside, 1-2. 6-Scotch Plains-Fanwood, 1-2. 7-Roselle, 0-2.

Scoring a whopping 81 points in his team’s 3-0 start was Oratory Prep senior John Perone. Junior guard Asher Bradley was second with 46.

For Rahway, now guided by head coach Erik Podell, the Indians were led by junior guard James Downing with 44 points and then senior guard Isaiah Gurley with 34.

Summit, 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the Mountain Division, was led by junior David Fix with 54 points. Matt Caplan, a sophomore, was next with 34.

Cranford, 1-2 overall and 1-2 in the Mountain Division, was led by senior Nick Amitie’s 70 points.

Valley Division, six schools: 1-Governor Livingston, 3-0. 2-New Providence, 2-0. 3-Arthur L. Johnson, 1-1. 4-David Brearley, 1-2. 5-Roselle Park, 0-2. 6-Jonathan Dayton, 0-2.

Governor Livingston senior Patrick McGrath netted 49 points through his team’s 3-0 start. Sophomore Dominic Labisi had 23, senior forward William Sottosanti 22 and senior guard Kyle McCulloch 20.
New Providence had four players in the 20s. Senior guard Jackson Zarinko had 29, senior center Peyton Pazdera had 27 and senior forward Corey Rust and senior guard Andrew Nook each had 25.
Arthur L. Johnson, now being guided by former Plainfield and Rahway head coach Jeff Lubreski, was led by sophomore Dean Yellen’s 50 points. Next was sophomore Luke LaPorta with 21.

Upcoming January games of note

Thursday, Jan. 4: Hillside at Cranford, 4 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 4: Roselle Park at Arthur L. Johnson, 5:30 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 4: Linden at Elizabeth, 7 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 4: Roselle at Oratory Prep, 7 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 4: Summit at Rahway, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 6: Cranford at Rahway, 2 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 6: New Providence at Governor Livingston, 3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 9: Union at Westfield, 4 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 9: Elizabeth at Union Catholic, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 10: Union at Rahway, 7 p.m.