Union County boys basketball teams prepare for 2023-2024 season

Union junior O’Malley King is a key returning player for the Farmers.

UNION COUNTY, NJ — Which boys basketball teams in Union County will see the ball bounce their way more often than not this season?
We shall soon find out, as the 2023-2024 season will commence around the state of New Jersey on Thursday, Dec. 14.

There was a bit of a “changing of the guard” in Union County last year, no pun intended, with Frank J. Cicarell Academy, Elizabeth not being the most dominant team.

Roselle Catholic High School still won the Union County Tournament again, for the second year in a row and for the fourth time in the last five tournaments, but teams such as Linden, Union Catholic, Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Summit and Abraham Clark High School, Roselle also enjoyed highly-successful campaigns.

Linden High School had one of its best seasons in some time, winning the most games of any team in Union County. The Tigers went 24-7, reached the UCT final and then captured the North 2, Group 4 sectional state championship before their season ended in the Group 4 semifinals.

Linden edged Newark’s East Side High School at home 63-62 in the North 2, Group 4 final. It was freshman Jekhi Burnam who made the tying and winning free throws to lift Linden to the championship.
Burnam is among the key returning players in Linden head coach Anthony Drejaj’s lineup.

Frank J. Cicarell Academy, Elizabeth went 15-8 a year ago, but was 9-1 for the best record in the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division. Linden was second at 8-2 and Union Catholic High School, 21-9, was third at 6-4.

Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, which finished 16-10 overall, captured the UCC’s Mountain Division crown with a perfect 10-0 league record. Coming in second was Summit High School, 16-10, and Summit’s Oratory Prep School, 14-12, both finishing 6-4 in the division.

Abraham Clark High School, Roselle also had one of its best seasons in some time, coming in at 23-5 overall. The Rams edged New Providence High School for the UCC’s Valley Division title. Roselle was 10-1 in league play and New Providence, which finished 15-11 overall, was second at 9-2.

Watchung Division’s Westfield High School also finished with a winning record last year as the Blue Devils went 17-10 overall and were 4-6 in the division.

Union High School just missed posting a winning season by one game as the Watchung Division Farmers concluded at 11-11 overall and were 3-7 in the division.

Union is scheduled to open at Watchung Division rival Plainfield High School on Thursday, Dec. 14, at 7 p.m., with the Cardinals coming off a rare 4-18 season that also saw them go 0-10 in the division. The teams are scheduled to play again in division competition on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at Union in a 4 p.m. start.
Union, guided by 13-year head coach Kevin Feeley, has 6-4 junior forward O’Malley King, No. 1, returning.

A junior up from the junior varsity a year ago is No. 21, Carl Matala.

The Farmers are scheduled to play at Phillipsburg High School on Saturday, Dec. 16, at noon, in their second game before facing Frank J. Cicarell Academy, Elizabeth in their home-opener on Tuesday, Dec. 19, at 4 p.m.

Union’s final two scrimmages are scheduled at Irvington High School on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 10 a.m., and then home against South Plainfield High School on Monday, Dec. 11, at 4 p.m.

Roselle Catholic is the only Union County school not scheduled to open on Thursday, Dec. 14. The Lions will commence their 2023-2024 season on Friday, Dec. 15, vs. Life Center Academy.

Roselle Catholic’s new head coach is Todd Decker, who previously coached at Union’s Patrick School and, prior to that, at St. Peter’s Prep. Decker, 44, succeeds Dave Boff, who, last year, guided Roselle Catholic to the final No. 1 ranking in New Jersey in the first year there was no Tournament of Champions since 1988, not counting 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19 protocols.
Decker was named in early May.

Last year, Roselle Catholic went 22-5 and did not play anyone in the Watchung Division. The Lions defeated Linden 64-55 in the UCT final played at Kean University’s Harwood Arena in Union.

Roselle Catholic then defeated Montclair’s Immaculate Conception High School, 71-61, to win North Jersey, Non-Public B, which was its sectional state championship.

The Lions then downed St. Rose 68-59 to capture the Non-Public B crown for their latest state championship.

Opening Night, Thursday, Dec. 14

Union County Boys Basketball Schedule

Hillside High School at Abraham Clark High School, Roselle, 4 p.m.

Jonathan Dayton High School at Governor Livingston High School, 4 p.m.

Colts Neck High School at Rahway High School, 4:30 p.m.

David Brearley High School at Arthur L. Johnson High School, 5:30 p.m.

Plainfield High School at Union High School, 7 p.m.

Westfield High School at Frank J. Cicarell Academy, Elizabeth, 7 p.m.

Linden High School at Union Catholic High School, 7 p.m.

Roselle Park High School at New Providence High School, 7 p.m.

Summit High School at Oratory Prep School, Summit, 7 p.m.

Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School at Cranford High School, 7 p.m.

Photo Courtesy of Union boys basketball head coach Kevin Feeley