UNION COUNTY, NJ — After near misses in 2012, 2015 and 2016, Roselle Catholic High School won its first boys basketball Union County Tournament championship in 2018.
The Lions have now appeared in the last four championship games, winning three of them, including last year’s against Elizabeth High School 63-58.
Roselle Catholic, which plays a national schedule and which began the year ranked No. 1 in the country, was a heavy favorite to beat Union Catholic High School in the first semifinal at Kean University on Tuesday, Feb. 14, after the press deadline, to advance to the championship game at Kean, scheduled for a 4 p.m. tip on Sunday, Feb. 19, right after the girls basketball championship contest.
The second scheduled semifinal at Kean University on Tuesday, Feb. 14, pitted third-seeded Linden High School vs. second-seeded Elizabeth. In Union County Conference-Watchung Division play, Elizabeth defeated Linden 60-46 at home on Thursday, Jan. 5. Then, on Thursday, Jan. 26, at Linden, the visiting Minutemen topped the host Tigers 38-35.
Elizabeth captured the Watchung Division championship outright with a 9-1 record, splitting with Westfield High School.
Defending champion Roselle Catholic is no longer a member of the UCC.
Roselle Catholic repeated as UCT champions in 2019, then fell to St. Patrick High School of Elizabeth in the 2020 final. There was no UCT in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the UCT quarterfinals at the Thomas Dunn Sport Center in Elizabeth on Saturday, Feb. 11, top-seeded Roselle Catholic improved to 15-5 overall, after easily dispatching ninth-seeded Summit High School 75-44.
All of Roselle Catholic’s losses are to out-of-state opponents.
Rich Brisco produced a game to remember for the Lions by scoring 12 points, bringing down 10 rebounds and blocking three shots.
The only close quarterfinal, as predicted, saw fourth-seeded Union Catholic edge fifth-seeded Westfield 52-50. Union Catholic’s Keyshawn Winchester made two free throws with less than a second remaining for the difference. The Vikings improved to 15-8.
Cameron McRae paced Elizabeth, which improved to 15-6, with 20 points, 18 of them coming on six three-pointers, as the Minutemen bested seventh-seeded Scotch Plains-Fanwood 57-51.
Nas Robinson scored 19 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, Elijah Motley had 19 points, six assists and four rebounds and Hashim Nadir contributed 18 points and six boards to lead Linden past 11th-seeded Abraham Clark High School 86-61. Linden improved to 19-5.
Tahdir Carson netted 17 points to lead Abraham Clark, which is having an outstanding season, beginning the week with a 20-4 record. Teammates Zaire Carter and Nafee Finney poured in 11 points each.
Linden was the last public school team to win the UCT, downing Roselle Catholic 60-56 in the 2015 final at Kean University. In the last 15 years, only two public school teams have won the UCT, Plainfield in 2012 and Linden in 2015.
The top four seeds made the semifinals.
Last year, Elizabeth reached the championship game for the first time since 2009. The Minutemen last won the crown in 2004 with head coach Donald Stewart. Elizabeth won the championship with head coach Pat Brunner in 2004.
Union Catholic has never won the UCT. The Vikings last reached the championship game in 1986. The only other year Union Catholic made it to the final was 1982.
2023 Boys Basketball
Union County Tournament
1-Roselle Catholic. 2-Elizabeth. 3-Linden. 4-Union Catholic. 5-Westfield. 6-Union. 7-Scotch Plains-Fanwood. 8-Plainfield. 9-Summit. 10-Oratory Prep. 11-Abraham Clark. 12-New Providence. 13-Hillside. 14-Cranford. 15-Rahway. 16-Governor Livingston. 17-Jonathan Dayton. 18-Arthur L. Johnson.
Tuesday, Feb. 7
Plainfield 57, Jonathan Dayton 31– at Plainfield
Summit 47, Governor Livingston 39 – at Summit
New Providence 64, Hillside 52 – at New Providence
Abraham Clark 76, Cranford 52 – at Abraham Clark
Scotch Plains-Fanwood 56, Arthur L. Johnson 53 – at Scotch Plains-Fanwood
Oratory Prep 57, Rahway 37 – at Oratory Prep
Thursday, Feb. 9
Summit 61, Plainfield 36 – at Plainfield
Westfield 59, New Providence 33 – at Westfield
Abraham Clark 78, Union 73 – at Union
Scotch Plains-Fanwood 61, Oratory Prep 59 – at Scotch Plains-Fanwood
Saturday, Feb. 11
Roselle Catholic 75, Summit 44
Union Catholic 52, Westfield 50
Elizabeth 57, Scotch Plains-Fanwood 51
Linden 86, Abraham Clark 61
Tuesday, Feb. 14
At Kean University
4-Union Catholic vs. 1-Roselle Catholic
3-Linden vs. 2-Elizabeth
Sunday, Feb. 19
At Kean University
Semifinal winners, 4 p.m.