NJSIAA Group 4 Sectional Tournament Preview

North 1
The Group 4 North 1 bracket was already filled with action in the first round of play. We seen one of the biggest upsets coming from the bottom quadrant as the #15-seed Clifton downed the #2-seed Paterson Eastside. We also seen a 10/7-seed upset as Livingston fell to Passaic, setting up a quarterfinal round between Clifton and Passaic.

Ridgewood, the #1-seed in this bracket had a solid year with an 18-8 record but have been a little shaky in the back half of the year. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games including a loss to the #6-seed in Hackensack. The Maroons are led by Junior guard, Johnny Jackson who leads the team in scoring with over 20 points per game. They are schedule to meet Montcliar who has been playing some tough basketball lately. The Mounties are hopeful to pull of an upset but if Ridgewood can get back to their early season ways, they could make a pretty good run.

The biggest team to watch in this bracket is a team who spent a few weeks in the Top 20 and are very capable of being in that spot again, East Orange. They come in as the #3-seed and might have the best roster in this bracket. The veteran guard duo in Eugene Byass and Kaiyri Barkley have been a consistent force all year and their experience has propelled the rest of the team to success. Junior, Carlyle Adams and Freshman, James Roberts have been key pieces in the offense as they both became reliable options for the Jaguars. After going 1-3 at the end of January, they put together a 6 game win streak and look to make a deep run in this tournament.

Another team to keep on your radar is a young Paterson Kennedy team who have been very solid all year. The Knights are currently 16-9 but three of those losses came from the now eliminated Paterson Eastside. They have beat some of the teams in this bracket but will have to avenge an early season loss if they pair up with Ridgewood in the next round. This features a slew of Sophomores, but the name to watch here is Micah Pierce who currently leads the team with over 300 points on the season. They will have to go through a tough Memorial team who has been playing solid basketball of the past few weeks. The Tigers, led by Lewis Pantaleon (18 ppg & 10 rpg) were in some battles with HCIAL powerhouses Hudson Catholic and St. Peter’s Prep where they were able to test their might. Despite losing to these conference foes, it was a challenge for this group heading into the playoffs.

North 2
The North 2 bracket is an interesting one as two underrated teams already advance to the second round. #12-seed Linden and #13-seed Scotch Plains-Fanwood meet with two upset wins over higher seed. Despite being seeded lower, anyone watching Union County basketball this year will tell you that these teams should have been way higher. In fact this bracket features a group of four UCC teams that look to make their mark. Plainfield, Elizabeth, Linden, and SPF all look to move forward as some of the better teams in this bracket.

The #1 seed Phillipsburg is looking to put any of the Union County talk to rest as the Stateliners have been outstanding all season. Currently 24-2, Coach Sigafoos and his team is locked in and ready to make some noise. Phillipsburg is lead by a group of veterans who have been playing great basketball all season. Matthew Scerbo, Andrew Martin, and Ameer Herran have been the key pieces in this team’s success and look to continue this momentum. However, they will meet with the #20-ranked team in the state in Plainfield who are coming off some really big wins. Recently the Cardinals have locked up wins over Elizabeth, Linden, and Newark Arts which have been enough to get them into the rankings. This team is very young team that is composed of underclassmen, but play like veterans. They are dangerous. Freshman Micah Gordon has been turning heads in the state as he’s been averaging nearly 20 points a game in his first year. Other key contributors feature Sophomores Kamai Lowery, Rashawn Williams, and Devin Thomas who have been catching fire as of late during Plainfield’s 13-2 end of season run. This premier match up has the potential to set the tone in the North 2 Section.

Other key teams in this bracket feature long time rivals in Elizabeth and Linden. The Linden Tigers opened up the year as one of the hottest teams in the state and quickly rose up the rankings. However, they recently lost 6 games in their list 10 including a few losses from teams in this bracket. This slump is why they fell down to the #12-seed. Despite being seeded so low, the Tigers look to get back on track. This core group has been together for a few years and were able to see a ton of success together. Naz Robinson has been the team’s go-to scorer with nearly 20 points per game but sees great success from other key players like Jekhi Burnam, Elijah Butler and Hashim Nadir. This team is not to be looked down upon. On the other hand, Elizabeth has been the team to beat all year. One of the best public schools in the state and currently ranked #17, the Minutemen are a potential favorite to win this bracket. They are currently 18-5 and have been a consistent team all year led by star guard, Landon Carson and legendary Head Coach Phillip Colicchio. They were the 2022 Group 4 Champions and are no strangers to playoff runs. This time around they look to make some noise after falling out in the first round last season. Outside of Carson, this team has a ton of great young players which feature Junior duo Cam McRae and Jordan Torres, Sophomore guard Kareem Anthony, and Freshman sniper, Jayden Johnson. Their balanced offense has shown a high level display of attack all year.

Another interesting game in Round 2 includes #7-seed Franklin vs #2-seed Watching Hills. Watching Hills sits at 18-7 but has an early season (40-39) win over Franklin and a more recent (50-47) win in the Somerset County Finals. The Warriors have suffered some questionable losses in between, but proven to be the better team in two close battles. Franklin on the other hand has been playing some of its best basketball all season. Despite suffering a few recent losses, the Warriors have been playing tough ball. They are 7-3 in their last 10 but have lost to both the 1/2-seed in this bracket by just a few points and their other loss came by two points to a top ranked Union Catholic team. As of now it seems that Watchung Hills has their number, but anything is possible in the playoffs and I would not count this team out.

The Central bracket finds itself in a better position than most. The current favorite, Montgomery currently sits at 22-3 with their only losses coming from Rutgers Prep and Lenape, who both sit in the NJ Athletics Top 20. The Cougars also sit at #19 in the state themselves and set the ton when they picked up a win over a top team in College Achieve back in January. This team plays in a balanced pace between offense and defense. Steve Donahue has been the teams leading scorer with 16 ppg, but the team has seen a ton of support from Ethan Lin, Jack Fromiet and Bohdan Biekietov. As they look to break into Group tournament play, the Cougars have a few more games to win before doing so.

The biggest threat to the #1-seed will most likely be Monroe basketball who have been atop of the GMC this season. They are currently 17-7 and have been playing tough basketball all season. A name to look out for on this team is Myles Marabuto who excels in his playmaking ability and crafty handles. Marabuto is the teams leading scorer and assist leader and the Falcons offense runs primarily though him. Monroe has suffered a few losses as of late, but this team is very capable of making a run and getting right back on track.

A dark horse to look out for is Jackson Memorial who is 12-12 but has some talent build around their team. They recently shocked the bracket with an upset victory over Howell and look to carry that momentum to Manalapan. Coached by former Lakewood Championship Coach, Randy Holmes, the Jaguars have the ability to pull off another upset.

The South bracket advances to the next round with just about all the favorites moving forward to the quarterfinal round. The #1-seed and #18 ranked team (NJ Athletics Top 20) in Lenape is the current favorite to win this bracket. The Indians sit at 24-3 and have not lost a game in the last 6 weeks. A few of these wins came from 3 teams remaining in the South bracket. Tye Dorset and Myles Primas have been key leaders in this Lenape team with a combined 33 points per game. They go on to face Kingsway who is coming off a game winning shot against Southern Regional.

Two other teams in this bracket that are capable of making a run, both reside from The Shore Conference. Central Regional and Toms River North have both been competitive all season As they become the number #3-seed and the number #4-seed. Central Regional is currently 21-4 on the year with solid wins over teams like Mainland and Haddonfield. The Eagles are led by standout Junior Jaycen Santucci, and Miles Chevalier who currently has over 850 combined points on the year. Toms River North on the other hand is 20-7 including 11 wins in their last 13 games. The Mariners offense shows a balance of high-level scoring and athleticism. Micah Ford (14 ppg) and Owen Baker(12 ppg) currently lead the offense but are backed by a squad of 4 other players contributing over 150 points each on the year. The Mariners also have an early season win over Central Regional which makes for an interesting case if the two wind up meeting in the semis.

#2-seed Eastern has also been a very competitive team all year. They spent some time in the NJ Athletics Top 20 and are very capable of being in the mix. With only 4 losses on the year, the Vikings have knocked out a ton of great teams in South Jersey area. The duo guards Damien Edwards and Max Portnoy have been nothing short of great all season and have put nearly 1000 combined points up this season. However, the toughest obstacle in this bracket will come from a potential finals bout with Lenape. Despite being 24-4 this year, two of those four losses came from Lenape as the Indians won 61-55 in January and 52-48 in February. If Eastern can settle in and get to the finals, the Vikings will need to adjust to prevent a potential season sweep from their Division rival.