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Boys basketball ranking and notes: Skyland Conference, area UCC final Top 10

1. Union Catholic (22-7)preseason No. 1 – The Vikings won their first Union County Tournament and Union County Conference Watchung Division titles, two crowns they didn’t win last season when they were Non-Public B state champs. Union Catholic won 17 of its last 19 games, but their quest for a Non-Public A title this year ended in a 53-35 loss to Paul VI in the sectional final. The Vikings should remain a contender next season, as they only will only lose seniors Elijah Peters and Terrance Woods among their top players. Junior guards AJ Altobelli and Luke Schorr and junior forwards FK Muntari and Yaw Ansong return.

More: Boys basketball index: Links to the Courier News and Home News Tribune All-Area package

2. Rutgers Prep (20-6)preseason No. 2 – The Argonauts’ young lineup got serious game experience against St. Rose, St. Peter Prep, Hudson Catholic and St. Benedict’s, and was pushed by No. 3 Montgomery before repeating as Somerset County Tournament champs. Rutgers Prep also swept its Skyland Delaware slate. Freshmen Jacob Canton, Andrew Kretkowski and Rocco Loomis, and junior Myles Parker all played bigger roles after senior forward John Kelly broke his foot in the preseason — he returned for the last few weeks. The Argonauts were beaten by No. 1 Union Catholic in the South Non-Public A semis.

3. Montgomery (25-4)preseason No. 10 – The Cougars’ milestone season included their first Central Group 4 title since 2010, an unbeaten Skyland Valley Division run, and a just-miss loss to No. 2 Rutgers Prep in the Somerset County Tournament final. The Cougars also beat state Group 1 champion College Achieve Asbury Park. Senior Steve Donohue and junior Bohdan Biekietov were the leaders.

More: Boys basketball: Montgomery’s Steve Donahue is the Courier News Player of the Year

4. Plainfield (19-8)preseason not ranked – The Cardinals had the biggest turnaround in the area, going went from 4-18 last year, and winless in the UCC Watchung Division, to 19-8 and 7-3 in division this season. Plainfield bounced back from an upset loss to Cranford in the Union County Tournament quarterfinals to win four in a row to make the sectional final. The Cardinals beat state Group 2 finalist Newark Arts in a regular season game before winning three straight sectional games. They lost 69-67 to Elizabeth in the section final.

5. Franklin (16-12)preseason No. 9 – The Warriors turned it on by winning 8-of-10 before losing to state Group 4 champion Elizabeth in the North 2 semifinals. Franklin also avenged a loss to Watchung Hills in the county quarterfinals by beating Watchung in the section quarters.

6. Watchung Hills (18-8)preseason NR – The Warriors pushed Phillipsburg throughout the campaign for the Skyland Raritan title before falling late in the season. Warriors got out to a 5-0 start that included a win over Phillipsburg. The Stateliners then won 20 straight.

7. Hillsborough (15-9)preseason No. 4 – The Raiders swept the season series with Gill St. Bernards and Immaculata, but lost five-of-six down the stretch, and then the final two games of the season, falling to county champ Rutgers Prep in the semi and succumbing to Linden in the first round of states.

8. Pingry (19-5)preseason No. 8 – The Big Blue’s losses were to No. 2 Rutgers Prep (county quarterfinals), two to No. 3 Montgomery, one in overtime to Delaware Valley, and a 49-48 heartbreaker to Camden Catholic in a Non-Public A South opener. Big Blue knocked off Bound Brook in a county second round thriller and had a big 68-63 non-conference win over Seton Hall Prep.

9. New Providence (19-7)preseason No. 7 – The Pioneers won the Union County Conference Valley Division title with a 9-1 record and went 2-1 in North 2 Group 2. Pioneers had a 14-2 stretch at one point.

10. Delaware Valley (21-8) preseason NR – The Terriers showed ability early beating Immaculata on the road in the second game of the season. They sustained it for most of the season, making the Central Group 2 semis, where they lost 45-43 to section champ Manasquan. Among the season highlights was an overtime win over No. 8 Pingry and overtime win over Spotswood in the section quarterfinals.

Skyland realignment set

The realignments for the 2024-25 season of Skyland Conference divisions are scheduled to be set this week, not only bringing changes to the divisional lineup, but also adding three charter schools as provisional members.

Under the current proposal, expected to be locked in during the league’s general conference meeting Wednesday, College Achieve Charter (North Plainfield), which competed in this season’s Somerset County Tournament, will be joined by Thomas Edison Energy Charter (Franklin) and Central Jersey Charter (Franklin) in joining the league as provisional members. They’ll play one game against each Mountain Division opponent, but won’t be eligible for division championships this year. If all goes well, the plan is to add them as fulltime members next year.

Here are the new alignments:

DELAWARE DIVISION

Returning: Franklin, Gill St. Bernards, Hillsborough, Rutgers Prep

Additions: Philipsburg, Watchung Hills

Departures: Immaculata

RARITAN DIVISION

Returning: Bridgewater-Raritan, Hunterdon Central, Ridge

Additions: Immaculata, Montgomery, Pingry

Departures: Bound Brook, Phillipsburg, Watchung Hills

VALLEY DIVISION

Returning: Delaware Valley, North Hunterdon, Somerville

Additions: Bernards, Bound Brook

Departures: Montgomery, Pingry, Voorhees

MOUNTAIN DIVISION

Returning: Belvidere, Manville, South Hunterdon, Warren Hills

Additions: Bernards, Voorhees

Provisional additions: College Achieve Charter (North Plainfield), Thomas Edison Energy Charter (Franklin), Central Jersey Charter (Franklin)

Departures: Bernards, Bound Brook

This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: NJ Boys basketball ranking and notes: Skyland Conference, area Top 10


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