In what is annually the last week before the state tournaments commence, Union County basketball will continue its path toward crowning new champions.
The boys’ and girls’ Union County Tournaments have now reached the semifinal stages, with the top 4 seeds advancing in both.
The top 4 seeds making it on the boys’ side is not news, but a bit of news on the girls’ side since there are usually a few upsets along the way there.
The 80th boys’ semifinals are scheduled to take place at Kean University’s Harwood Arena Feb. 24. It will be fourth-seeded Union Catholic taking on top-seeded The Patrick School of Elizabeth on the top side of the bracket in the 7:30 p.m. game and before that third-seeded and defending champion Linden facing second-seeded Roselle Catholic in a rematch of last year’s championship game in the 6 p.m. bottom side of the bracket tilt.
In a regular-season conference-crossover contest, The Patrick School trimmed visiting Union Catholic 73-46 back on Jan. 7.
Roselle Catholic and Linden split Union County Conference-Watchung Division contests. Linden won the first meeting at Linden by the score of 55-52 on Jan. 14. Defending Watchung Division champion Roselle Catholic downed Linden 59-55 at RC on Feb. 2.
Linden came from behind in the second half to defeat Roselle Catholic 60-56 in last year’s final. It was Linden’s 11th title, third under present head coach Phil Colicchio, and first since 2007.
Roselle Catholic, still seeking its first county crown, made its third appearance in the championship game and second in four seasons. RC also played in the final in 1963 and 2012.
Roselle Catholic has won the last three Non-Public B state championships and two of the last three Tournament of Champions crowns.
Before last year, The Patrick School won two straight UCT titles. Before that, then known as St. Patrick, the Celtics won four straight crowns from 2008-2011.
Plainfield won its first championship in 2012 since 1979.
The 41st girls’ semifinals are scheduled to take place Feb. 25, but no site has been selected as of Feb. 21.
On the top side of the bracket it’s fourth-seeded Roselle Catholic vs. top-seeded and defending champion Patrick School. The bottom side of the bracket semifinal pits third-seeded Cranford vs. second-seeded New Providence.
Roselle Catholic and Patrick School split UCC-Watchung Division games. RC won 47-44 at home back on Dec. 22 and Patrick School won 45-34 at home on Feb. 3.
New Providence – in the semifinals for the first time since 2011 – swept Cranford in UCC-Watchung Division play. The Pioneers first defeated the Cougars 51-46 at home on Opening Night, Dec. 19. New Providence then defeated Cranford 64-57 in Cranford on Feb. 6.
Roselle Catholic has won five UCTs. The Lions won their first in 2003, then won three in a row in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and then captured their last one in 2014. RC was the top seed last year after a 21-0 start, but lost to Westfield in the semifinals.
The Patrick School won its only title last year. The Celtics are the top seed for the first time this year.
New Providence and Cranford have both captured one title. New Providence won its crown in 1990 and Cranford its in 2006. Cranford is seeking to reach the final for the first time since 2012. New Providence has yet to reach the final under present head coach Cap Pazdera, who has led the Pioneers to three Group 1 state championships, including last year’s.